LEXINGTON, Va. -- It takes a lot of mental and physical fortitude to rebound from a heartbreaking loss, but the Virginia Military Institute lacrosse team has it. Less than 24 hours after suffering a heartbreaking 8-6 loss against University of Detroit Mercy, VMI bounced back and topped visiting United States Air Force Academy 6-4 at Drill Field #2.
The win, VMI’s first of the season, will go down in the record books as the team’s first-ever victory over a Division I Service Academy.
It was the young guns that lead the way for VMI (1-4), as freshman Dale Mattice scored twice, including the Keydets’ fifth goal of the day, which proved to be the game-winner. He also added an assist to his afternoon for a career-best three points. Sophomore Domenick Stumpo was an extra-man specialist as the Warrenton, Va. native put away two man-up goals in the first quarter. Another pair of freshmen, Brad Nardella and Kasey Kettle scored once each. Sophomore Ben Huger and senior Mickey Hofmeister tallied one assist each.
Air Force’s efforts were led by Erik Smith who scored twice, both in the first quarter, while Christopher Allen and Tommy McKee struck in the second and fourth quarters, respectively. Keith Dreyer had two assists on the afternoon while Kyle Cassady added a third.
Between the pipes for VMI, junior goalkeeper Evan Windisch made 14 saves, coming off of a 19-save performance on Saturday against Detroit. With a stout defense in front of him, Windisch got the shots he wanted to see, making five saves in the third quarter.
“Rory (Dillon), Tom (Brown) and Pras (Tyler Prasnicki) played excellent defense,” said Windisch, who earned the first victory of his career. “They gave me the shots I wanted, communication was awesome and we settled down on the clears. … We really just meshed well.”
The Keydets’ defensive efforts held an opponent under five goals for the first time since a 15-4 win over Presbyterian College on Feb. 27, 2008.
Windisch and the VMI defense saw plenty of action in the second half as Air Force ripped off 21 shots in the final 30 minutes, including 16 in the third quarter en route to out-shooting VMI 33-23 for the game. But only five of those shots made it on goal, and were met by Windisch.
Air Force (2-3) split the halves between two goalies. Doug Gouchoe got the start, making three saves in the first half but allowing five goals in the loss. Brett Dadiego played the entire second half and made three stops, allowing just one goal.
VMI had another strong outing at the faceoff X as Mitch Wilson won nine of the game’s 14 draws while Air Force sent three different players to faceoff. Smith had the best effort at the X for the Falcons, winning five of the eight draws he contested. Bryan price went 0-5 while Luke Toscano lost his only chance. Wilson started the game strongly, winning five of the six draws in the first quarter. His play was important in the second half, where he won three of his four efforts to help VMI maintain possession.
The Keydets had a good showing in the clearing game, gaining the offensive zone 12 times on 18 chances (66.6 percent). Air Force went 14 of 20 in clears (70.0 percent) but at times struggled with VMI’s ride.
For a second-straight game, VMI won the groundball battle, collecting 31 against the Falcons’ 24, including 10 in the first quarter alone.
A pivotal moment in the game came in the first quarter as VMI was afforded three extra-man chances. But Stumpo cashed in on two of those three chances, giving the Keydets a 3-1 lead with his second marker. Conversely, VMI did not take a penalty the entire game, the second time this season the Keydets have gone penalty-free in a game.
Air Force jumped out to an early 1-0 lead just two minutes into the game as Smith finished a pass from Dreyer, but the lead was short lived before Nardella potted his second career goal another two minutes into the game. Huger had the assist, his fifth of the season.
Stumpo came up big for VMI, giving the Keydets a lead they would not relinquish, scoring a nifty backhanded shot on VMI’s first man-up chance, followed by a second, more traditional shot on a dish from Hofmeister, who extended his point scoring streak to five games. Mattice had the assist on Stumpo’s first goal.
Smith scored again with just 1:31 left in the third quarter to give the Keydets a 3-2 lead after 15 minutes.
The pace of offensive production slowed down for the remainder of the game, with just five more combined goals over the next 45 minutes. Kettle extended VMI’s lead midway through the second period before Mattice scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with 3:57 before the halftime break. The Falcons made it a two-goal game before halftime as Allen snapped home a pass from Dreyer with 2:44 to go.
Both teams were held off the board for entirety of the third quarter and over half of the fourth before McKee scored unassisted at the 6:22 mark of the fourth. McKee’s goal made it a one-goal, 5-4 game before Mattice potted the insurance goal, giving VMI the 6-4 win over the Falcons.VMI caps a three-game homestand on Wednesday night as the Keydets welcome the University of Vermont to Drill Field #2. The game is set to begin at 7 p.m. for the program’s first-ever night game on Post at VMI.