It was all there for the Garnet, ready for the taking. A win over the Gettysburg Bullets for the first time in twenty-seven seasons. A defeat over a nationally-ranked opponent for the only time in the history of the program. An upset win that could put an up-and-down season on the path to something great. All of it within the team’s grasp. Until it wasn’t.
On a Saturday afternoon in Gettysburg, a three-goal lead in the third quarter turned into a stomach punch of a loss for the Swarthmore men’s lacrosse team, who fell 8-7 in double overtime. Swarthmore (4-5, 1-2 in conference play) extended its losing streak against the 20th-ranked Bullets, a team it hasn’t defeated since 1985.
On Saturday, however, the Garnet came out of the gate like a team who didn’t know a thing about the streak. Two first-quarter goals from star Jonathan Molloy ’14 gave Swarthmore a 3-1 lead in the first quarter, giving him the team lead with 12. A second-quarter unassisted score from Zach Belden ’12 pushed the Garnet lead to three, but Gettysburg’s Martin Manilla brought the score to 4-2 at halftime with his second goal.
In the third quarter, the teams traded goals twice over, with Belden scoring his second goal for Swarthmore and Manilla his third for the Bullets. With 4:48 remaining in the third quarter, Ian Lukaszewicz ’15 made it 6-3 in favor of the Garnet, putting an upset squarely within range for his team with just under 20 minutes of play left to go. All of a sudden, the Bullets were poised to lose their first conference game of the season, at home, to a team they hadn’t lost to since the Cold War. They needed a momentum swing, and got one when Ryan Fumai’s third-quarter goal ended the period on a high note.
“The difference during [Gettysburg’s] comeback was possession,” Max Hubbard ’12 said. “A combination of lost face-offs and ground balls, failed clears and rushed possessions on offense left us playing too much defense at the end of the game.”
In the final quarter, Gettysburg struck early and often. Back-to-back-to-back unassisted goals from Henry Tesar, Bijan Firouzan, and Austin Dodson turned a 6-4 Bullets deficit into a 7-6 lead within the first five minutes.
“They had pretty long possessions,” Brendan Conway ’14 said of Gettysburg in the fourth quarter. “They held onto the ball, got good opportunities, their shots started to fall eventually, and they crept back.”
Gettysburg only had the lead for a short time, however, as Lukaszewicz netted the equalizer for his second goal of the game. It also proved to be the final goal by either team for the rest of regulation as well as one overtime period, in which only Molloy could get a shot off for the Garnet.
It was Tesar, at long last, who broke through with 3:42 to go in the second overtime, when he put the Bullets up 8-7 off an assist from Ian Casella. Just like that, the upset, the streak-breaking victory that the team held in the palm of its hand was gone, replaced with just another loss to Gettysburg.
On defense, Geli Carabases ’14 was a disruptive force for the Garnet, with four turnovers to his credit.
Captain Matt Bowers ’12 led the team in ground balls with six, while goalie Michael Brockway played the whole way through, saving seven shots.
With their victory, the Bullets move to 6-3 on the season with a perfect 3-0 conference record, good for third place in the conference standings behind Washington College and Dickinson.
As bad as the loss felt, Swarthmore couldn’t deny that there was an aspect of the moral victory to it, that simply playing the Bullets as competitively as they did was enough to prove something to themselves.
“It’s upsetting that we lost,” Lukaszewicz said, “but I think [the game] definitely showed that we can really hang with anyone.”
“We have confidence going into the rest of the conference schedule knowing that we can make some noise,” defender Carabases said. “If we stick to throwing fastballs, sticking corners, and playing at the level we are capable of, then I don’t see a team that scares us.”
The Garnet will look to move on from the Gettysburg this Saturday, when they head to Lancaster to take on conference rival Franklin and Marshall. The Diplomats currently sit in fourth place with a 2-2 conference record (7-3 overall). The game is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m.
“This is a rebound game,” Lukaszewicz said of the F&M match-up, “but we know that if we play like we did against Gettysburg, if we play inside ourselves and don’t make mistakes, we should get a win on Saturday.”