Fordham had a pair of key upsets in OT that could provide some momentum in the upcoming playoffs.
The Rams knocked off #5 Hellfire 7-6 on a goal by senior attackman Brian Arella to hand Hellfire their 1st loss of the spring.
Fordham then beat #20 Sacred Heart 5-4 when freshman midfielder Bobby Lynch scored in the extra session. Junior Midfield Zack Walsh had a late goal that tied the game 4-4 late in regulation.
Freshman long-stick midfielder Andrew O’Loughlin won crucial face-offs late in both games as well as an early goal early against Hellfire.
Freshman short-stick defensive midfielder Chase Dotson was aggressive and had some key clears throughout both games.
Seniors Raj Mehta and Tommy McHugh split time in goal and had clutch saves down the stretch and in overtime.
“These victories were huge for us and our season,” McHugh said. “We have been working hard all year long and last night is when I really think we put it all together. We were not satisfied with some of our performances at the beginning of the year and we were looking forward to the opportunity to play two great-ranked teams and prove ourselves. We are very proud of the effort of the team from the seniors down to the freshmen.
“These two victories put us at 4-2 on the season with two games remaining against conference foe Hofstra and Division II Marist. We hope these two victories propel us into the rankings and put us in a position to have a good look at the playoffs.”
With 2 Top 20 upsets, Fordham has put themselves smack dab in the middle of teams vying for a spot at at the National Tournament: held at State College May 13 & 14, the hot hand could lead to a deep run. If that happens, mark this edition as one of, if not the best Fordham has ever had.
In a weekend of upsets and there were quite a few, one should not come as a surprise as #14 Hellfire took down #4 Fairfield to earn their 3rd Top 20 upset as a 1st year program.
Steve Scanlon led Hellfire with three goals, while, Eddie Gaines and Sam Bissmeyer also scored for the newcomers to Division I and the NCLL.
Hellfire executed their face-offs, which maintained the ability to maintain long offensive possessions. Creighton Morgenfeld went 6 for 9 at the X, which enable Hellfire’s offense the opportunity to chip away at their defense and exploit any Stag weaknesses. Additionally, Hellfire’s riding game between the 30s created consistent pressure allowing opportunities to either attack in transition or to secure their defensive strategy.
The starting defense led by Austin Widner, Ben Wettstein, and Liam Kephart was crucial to Friday’s Top 5 upset, by far the biggest win of their inaugural season. The defense locked down Fairfield’s offense and gave netminder Pat Ruther the opportunity to keep the visitors in the game before earning a last second score to earn the upset.
“The biggest key to beating Fairfield was executing our plan and playing our game,” said Connor McElroy, one of the club’s founders with Maximus Marchi and Benjamin Mayo. “We hold ourselves to a high standard. From our effort and execution on rides and clears to our conduct on the sidelines. We have the utmost confidence in ourselves and each other, we trust each other. The selfless sacrifices of our teammates, from offensive midfielders filling in on defensive stands to any and everyone willing to take a hit to secure possession, we played for each other. This team-first mentality ultimately gave us the momentum and passion we needed to secure the win.
Because Hellfire could not anticipate who would or would not be able to play at Fairfield until a few days before the actual game, some even having to back out Friday morning, the players knew the team as a whole would need to step up to to compete with a solid Fairfield program. Thus in the weeks prior, Hellfire emphasized fundamentals on defense and offense to get everyone on the same page and be able to work with whoever was on the field.
“Our previous games in the season, such as beating defending Division II National Champion Union in triple overtime had exposed deficiencies within our offense and defense that we knew we needed to fix,” Mayo said. “The key point was emphasizing a more fluid and intelligent offense. During the Union game, for example, our offense lost possession numerous times through unnecessary plays. We are very confident in our offenses scoring ability, but when they are not playing together or intelligently, it impacts everyone. This resulted in most of the Union game being played on Hellfire’s defensive end.”
“Knowing we would have short numbers, we wanted to keep the ball on offense for as long as possible to alleviate pressure on our defense with fewer numbers than usual. We wanted to have smart goals, at the right time, after long possessions to decrease overall strain on the team. This was evident, for example, when Dante Dalmaso and the offense held onto the ball for almost two minutes while a flag was down so that we could burn out the clock and start the fourth-quarter man-up.”
Hellfire is looking forward to an April 14 shadow against Fordham and Sacred Heart, with the ultimate goal of beating current #1 Navy.
“The Army has recently reembraced its old Motto, “Be all you can be.” For the rest of the season, we hope to embrace the sentiment behind that motto and succeed in Hellfire and its members, becoming all that it can be,” Mayo said. “Through this, we hope to make an impact at the national tournament to round out our first year as a program.”
Hellfire has beaten ranked teams, but the players and coaches know they have to take one game at a time and continue to play their game and continue to improve to get to the playoffs.
“I am able to coach a group of athletes that come to the academy with a lot of confidence,” coach John Pellino said. “To come to West Point, you must have a lot of confidence in yourself, it is a place that requires a lot of confidence. They are taught leadership and will be in charge of our country’s sons and daughters so playing lacrosse is just part of that. They learn in their four-year training that it’s one step at a time and as you continue on the path success will follow.
“So, as we play different opponents and can successfully beat teams that play different styles, we can increase our confidence that we can play any style of game and come out on top. But you must take one game at a time and not look past each opponent.”