WILLIAMSTOWN -- If there were such a thing as frequent bus rider miles, the members of the Williams College lacrosse teams might never have to pay to travel again.
After a season of rides hither and yon, the two teams have returned "home," the return paying off by making it to their respective NESCAC tournament semifinals.
"We’re 3-0 on this field, so we’ve come to love it down here on the grass," said senior midfielder Stephen Upton.
Both teams have played most of their games -- even home games -- away from Williamstown. The men have practiced at RPI and played games at Keene State. The women have played games at McGuirk Alumni Stadium at UMass. This is all because of the ongoing construction project at Weston Field, which eliminated Renzie Lamb Field, where the lacrosse teams had played.
Both teams finally got to return home once the weather warmed up, and played three games at Cole Field, the home of the Eph soccer teams. On Saturday, the Williams men beat Middlebury 13-9, while the women defeated Tufts 11-6.
For the women, it marked their first win in three tries at Cole.
"Everybody was saying ‘exorcise this field.’ It had a bad vibe after the last two games," Williams midfielder Rebecca McGovern said. "It feels pretty nice to win."
McGovern scored three goals for the Williams women and Bridget Malicki had two goals and three assists. With the win, the fourth-seeded Ephs will play No. 2 Amherst on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Trinity. The top-seeded Bantams will host No. 6 Colby.
In the men’s game, the fourth-seeded Ephs led 6-1 at halftime and held off No. 5 Middlebury in the second half. Jack Lauroesch had a hat trick and added two assists for the Ephs, who play top-seeded Tufts Saturday in Medford.
The 2014 season was not an optimal situation for anybody. Men’s coach George McCormick and women’s coach Chris Mason both said they understood that it would be a challenge for them to make sure the players kept their eyes on the proverbial ball all season.
"It’s had some ups and downs," said Upton. "We lost some guys who had been around for while and couldn’t do the time commitment. I think it made us a lot closer as a team.
"We’re spending four hours a day together instead of two. I think this is the closest team we’ve had in my four years here."
McGovern said that even after talking to Mason, she was concerned about how the season would play out.
"I remember talking to Chris for the first time when she told me we’d be traveling a lot," McGovern said. "I thought everyone was going to quit.
"Everyone was in it to win it."
Both coaches agreed with one thing: Being road warriors through March and April has helped the teams get through rough patches in games and on the schedule.
"I think at the start of the year, I think everyone was overwhelmed with what we had going on, and maybe in spite of everything, we’d be able to win," said senior goalie Ali Pilch, who made 10 saves and improved her record to 13-3. "It really became a ‘because of’ thing. The team really rallied together. We were traveling, we were late. It sort of became to be, when we get on the field, let’s get ready and go. Sure enough, that’s what we’ve been doing."
For the men, the year has had more ups and downs than just the travel. The Ephs lost their opener, won five straight before going 1-4 in their next five. Williams finished up with a 3-1 regular season, now 4-1 after the playoff win.
"Obviously, it’s very difficult. We lost a lot of guys, a lot of great players and teammates dropped out because of the time issues. In the end, it’s been a blessing," said defenseman Ben Allison. "It’s easy to say that when you’ve had a successful season like this. But all year, since Feb. 15, this team has not said no."
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