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Saturday, March 26, 2011

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Men’s lacrosse shoots down Bullets
for first time in school history

Nick Rispoli
Rispoli won 13 of 20 faceoffs to help the Mules gain a 16-9 advantage on the X. He also added a team-high eight ground balls.
With each passing minute, the members of the Muhlenberg men’s lacrosse team grew increasingly confident as they hung with one of the strongest programs in Division III.

So while Gettysburg, which had won the previous nine meetings by an average of 10 goals per game, led by two after three quarters, junior Corey Aferiat said the mood in the Mule huddle was still one of optimism.

“We had missed a couple opportunities in the third quarter that we should have capitalized on,” he said. “So we felt like if we could just put a couple goals in it would put the pressure on them since they were the heavy favorite. We felt like we still had a really good shot to win.”

The Mules did just that as they outscored Gettysburg 4-1 in the fourth quarter to overcome the deficit and beat the Bullets for the first time in program history, 11-10. Ranked No. 11 in the most recent USILA coaches’ poll, Gettysburg is the highest-ranked team Muhlenberg has ever beaten.

The Bullets (5-4, 1-1) came out firing and took a quick two-goal lead less than eight minutes into the game. But sophomore Jack Reilly scored on a bouncing shot at the 6:54 mark to put the Mules on the board.

Trailing by one after a quarter, Muhlenberg’s offense took off in the second.

With their win over Gettysburg, the Mules have now beaten every CC team since lacrosse was reinstituted at Muhlenberg in 2003.
The Mules (3-4, 1-1) got three straight goals from juniors Clint Watkins, Aferiat and Alex Ardolino to take a 6-5 lead.

Gettysburg responded and the two teams appeared headed to the locker rooms tied 6-6.

But in the waning seconds Reilly found Brent Siebold just outside the crease. The senior turned and buried the shot to give the Mules the halftime.

“Jack stuck one early, and then Brent had that huge goal just before the half. Those two really gave us a lot of confidence,” Aferiat said. “So when we got down in the third quarter we still knew we could create good looks and score. And then we went out and took advantage of our opportunities down the stretch.”

Gettysburg outscored the Mules, 3-0, in the third quarter to head into the fourth up by two. But once again, the Mule offense exploded during an even-numbered quarter.

Ardolino and Watkins scored back-to-back goals to tie the score for the fourth time with less than seven minutes to play.

Junior Nick Rispoli won the ensuing faceoff and took off into the offensive zone. He fired a quick pass to Aferiat, who wasted no time and fired a shot into the back of the net to put the Mules up by one.

Two minutes later, Aferiat turned a lucky bounce into his second goal in less than three minutes.

Jack Reilly
Reilly has now registered both a goal and an assist in three games this season. He is tied for the team lead with five assists on the year.
Sophomore Ian de Ruiter’s clearing pass overshot its target and bounced into the Gettysburg zone. But the ball rolled right to Aferiat, who was standing just outside the crease. With no one between him and the cage, he turned and beat the goalie top shelf to add a much-needed insurance goal.

Gettysburg responded at the 2:22 mark to cut the deficit to one and won the ensuing faceoff. But senior Mike Horowitz, who finished with nine saves, took a shot off his chest protector to end the threat.

The Bullets fired off three more shots in the final minute, but one sailed wide and Horowitz stopped the other two to seal the game.

“I was a little nervous when they cut it to one because they’re a very good team and they had a lot of time left,” Ardolino said. “But at the same time I had all the confidence in the world in our defense. It was nerve-racking, but I really felt we were going to win.”

Ardolino led the Mules with a season-high four goals, while Aferiat, who had scored just two goals in Muhlenberg’s first six games, tied his career high with three. The Mules scored on nearly 40 percent of their shots and became the first opponent to reach double-digits against the Bullets, who own the CC’s top-rated defense.

“We’ve had games where three or four people played really well, but today we were hitting on all cylinders,” Ardolino said. “Our defense was shutting down some key players, and we took advantage of our opportunities on offense.

“These are the kinds of games you play for. This is the biggest win I’ve ever been a part of and is a great win for the program. These are the kind of wins that make some noise. This feels so surreal right now, but we’ve got to come back on Tuesday ready to play and keep this momentum going.”
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