VIRGINIA BEACH -- "Senior Night" is still a couple games down the road for the Virginia Wesleyan College men's lacrosse team, but stalwart Mikey Connors made it "Senior Night, Part I" for the Marlins Wednesday on Foster Field at the Trinder Center.
After producing what could have been a costly turnover with less than two minutes to play against Old Dominion Athletic Conference co-leader Hampden-Sydney College, the hard-nosed senior recorded a crucial recovery when he came up with the ball after a Tiger turnover in the waning seconds.
Connors (Horseheads, N.Y./Horseheads)advanced the ball downfield and got the Marlins moving toward the goal when VWC head coach J.P. Stewart called for a timeout to set up scoring strategy. When the teams returned to action, Connors was in the middle of the action again, helping steer the Marlins around the H-SC defense.
With eight seconds remaining the Marlins' strategy paid off when Nick Pappas (Edgewater, Md./South River) fired the ball into the net off a pass from -- who else -- Connors. The scoring connecting evoked a roar from the crowd of close to 700 as the Marlins posted a thrilling 12-11 victory. Connors played a leading role for the Marlins, scoring a game-high four goals and a game-high eight ground balls.
"Mikey Connors played like a senior," said Stewart. "He's played like that for us all season long. Mikey is the heart of this team. His effort was just part of a good team effort overall. The guys played well tonight. Anytime you can win in the ODAC, home or on the road, you've accomplished something. Our league is the best lacrosse league in the nation and any win against a league member is a big win."
The victory improved VWC's overall record to 7-4 and its league mark to 3-2. H-SC, which received votes for the most recent Top 20 national poll, dropped to 9-3 overall and to 4-1 in the ODAC.
While Pappas and Connors were two standouts for the Marlins, so was rookie Josh Currier (Peterborough, Ontario/Holy Cross-Hill Academy)who scored a goal and recorded an assist en route to inking his name in the VWC record book. He increased his season point total to 49, breaking the previous rookie scoring record of 48 points set by Brian Fox in 1999.
Currier, Pappas and Connors were three of five Marlins to score at least one goal each in an intense game that electrified the partisan VWC crowd. It was a contest that included five ties and one lead change, the latter a significant turn for Virginia Wesleyan.
H-SC led by tallied as many as three goals midway through the third period, but could make the lead stick. Joe Papetti (Edgewater, Md./South River), Currier and Connors scored consecutive goals to pull VWC into a 7-7 tie with 2:40 on the clock. But, the Tigers moved back in front before the quarter ended as Thomas Armstrong (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Latin) tallied unassisted to give H-Sc an 8-7 edge.
That turned out to be the last lead of the game for the Tigers as Virginia Wesleyan came on strong in the fourth quarter. Connors scored back-to-back goals and Mike Moran (Woolwich, N.J./Kingsway Regional) added another as Virginia Wesleyan opened up a 10-8 lead.
H-SC rallied quickly, scoring a pair of goals in a space of 29 seconds to make it a 10-10 game. The teams traded goals in the next few minutes to make it 11-11 with 5:18 on the clock, setting up the thrilling finish.
Goalies played crucial roles for their respective teams, each coming up with big saves throughout the game. VWC's Corey Bauer (Lititz, Pa./Lancaster Catholic) recorded 12 stops against 46 shots and H-SC's David Noftsinger (Richmond/Collegiate School) finished with 13 saves against 42 shots.
Virginia Wesleyan finished with a slim 24-20 advantage in ground balls, while H-SC finished with the edge in face-off wins 16-12.
While Connors led VWC with four goals, Papetti added three, Pappas and Moran had two each and Currier one. Tim Gunn (Sparks, Md./Hererford) recorded a game-high three assists and Spencer McCready (East Aurora, N.Y./Iroquois) added two.
James Hughes (Raleigh, N.C./Middle Creek) led H-SC with four goals, followed by Armstrong with three.
VWC competes again on Saturday, April 13, playing at Lynchburg College in ODAC play at 7 p.m.