LEXINGTON, Va. - It was a back-and-forth game in the 27th Lee-Jackson Lacrosse Classic, pitting next door neighbors, the Virginia Military Institute and Washington & Lee University, against one another on the lacrosse field. Washington & Lee won the 2013 edition of the game 15-8.
The Generals were presented with the Lee-Jackson Trophy after the game, while VMI’s junior attackman and captain Mike DeBlasio was named the Worrell-Fallon Award winner for VMI while Sean Gebhard was named for Washington & Lee.
But perhaps bigger than the game itself, the teams used the Classic as a chance to bring attention to ALS/MDA research. During halftime, VMI men’s soccer alumnus Tony Conway ’01, who suffers from ALS, addressed the crowd and the teams paired off and went into the stands to collect donations to benefit the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins (www.alscenter.org/donate).
DeBlasio led VMI’s offensive charge with a hat trick en route to becoming the second Keydet to win the Worrell-Fallon Award, equaling the mark set by Tony Cavalero who won it in 2004 and 2005.
Joining DeBlasio in the scoring column were five teammates. Freshmen Dale Mattice and Brad Nardella got one each, as did sophomores Ben Huger and Gage Snowbarger. Junior longstick midfielder Ty Trobridge potted the final goal of the night late in the fourth quarter. Freshman Mitch Wilson had the lone VMI assist.
Three Generals scored multiple goals, paced by Gebhard’s four. Jack Reuter had a hat trick while Austin Tamayo and Garrett Paglia had a pair each. Jack Clarke. Christian Zanetis, Will Douthat and Max Hutson had one goal each. Kevin Katzmann and Joe Wood notched a pair of assists each as Hutson and Jack Blair had one helper apiece.
Rookie Frank DiGiacomo made 13 saves for the Keydets, including several doorstep stops. The freshman stared down 44 shots from Washington & Lee, including 28 on cage. The Generals split time between three keepers as Warren Berenis got the start and played in the first half, making five saves and allowing four goals. Wyatt Devine played for 25 minutes with six saves and Jason Cleary finished the game and made one save.
A bigger and more physical team, VMI was called for seven penalties for five minutes. The Keydets killed two penalties on six extra-man chances for Washington & Lee, which was called for just one penalty.
“As always, this game provides us a great opportunity to work on the man-down portion of our game,” said VMI head coach Brian Anken, who is in his fourth season on Post. “Obviously, the most important aspect of this game is to raise money for a great cause. I could not be happier with the our performance and this game provided a great opportunity to work on and evaluate the areas we need to assess before going into winter workouts and our upcoming season.”
The Keydets won the groundball battle 35-31, including 11-7 in the third quarter. Nardella and fellow freshman Tom Brown finished the night with six groundballs each. Nardella went nine-of-16 at the faceoff X, including a fastbreak off the draw for his goal, while Wilson won five of his nine draws, helping VMI go 14-of-27 at the X.
In transition, the game was split as both sides gained the offensive zone on 18-of-22 chances. The Keydet transition was aided by the defense, who force 12 General turnovers. Junior Tyler Prasnicki forced a game-high turnovers while Brown caused another two.
Washington & Lee, which reached the second round of the NCAA Division III National Tournament, jumped out to a quick start, getting three goals in the first nine minutes of the game from three different sources. VMI got one from Nardella to make it a two-goal game, but the Generals tacked on another two in the final four minutes of the period to take a 5-1 lead at the end of the first.
But the second stanza belonged to the Keydets, who out-scored the 2013 Old Dominion Athletic Conference runner-up 3-1. The Generals got the first marker of the second quarter after five minutes had elapsed, but DeBlasio potted back-to-back goals to slice the W&L lead in half, 6-3. Mattice scored the final goal of the first half to pull VMI back within two of the Generals, 6-4, at the break.
The two schools, separated by a waist-high wall, traded blows to start the third quarter. W&L landed the first punch with nine minutes to go in the third, but VMI’s wasted no time getting the goal back as Huger buried a chance just 40 seconds later. With half the third quarter gone by, Washington & Lee scored again but again VMI answered quickly to make it a two-goal game again. But the back-breaker came with 4:45 and 4:35 left in the third as Hutson and Douthat scored back-to-back goals.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Generals continued their run with another three goals. DeBlasio broke up the run with 8:09 to go in the game, but a costly non-releasable penalty allowed the Generals to score twice. The Keydets got the final goal of the game from Trobridge with 15 seconds on the clock.VMI will announce its 2014 schedule within the week. The Keydets will open the season in Annapolis, Md. against the Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy. Check VMIKeydets.com for dates and times of the upcoming season.