DeBlasio Leads Keydets to 10-6 Senior Day win Over Manhattan

LEXINGTON, Va. -- To say it was an efficient day for sophomore Mike DeBlasio might be an understatement. The attackman buried four goals on five shots to help lead the Virginia Military Institute men’s lacrosse team to its first victory of the 2013 season, downing visiting Manhattan College 10-6 Saturday afternoon.

Prior to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game, the coaching staff honored the team’s seven seniors, Will Baker, Russell East, Drew Epps, Taylor Jenkins, Matt Lindemann, Tom Moran and James Van Wie, all of whom played their final game at Drill Field #2.

The victory snapped an 11-game slid for the Keydets (1-11, 1-4 MAAC), while also giving the program wins in consecutive home finales for the first time in program history. VMI head coach Brian Anken improved to 2-1 all-time against the Jaspers, while also giving the Keydets’ their first back-to-back wins over Manhattan in series history after last season’s 9-7 win at Gaelic Park in Riverdale, N.Y.

“It feels great, it’s more of a relief for me than anything,” said third-year head coach Brian Anken. “I know for our guys, it feels great. It was well deserved, well earned and just a lot of hard work coming into this. We’ve been close a lot of times, we haven’t been close a few times, and trying to put the pieces together on a tough year, this culminates a lot of hard work and a lot of effort.”

DeBlasio led the game with his four goals, a career high for the Patchogue, N.Y. native and his first hat trick since March 24, 2012 against Jacksonville University. East was VMI’s second leading scorer, posting his second straight game with two goals and one assist. Sophomore Anthony Mordaga had a solid day with one goal and two helpers while freshman Gage Snowbarger continued his point-producing ways, getting a goal and an assist for his sixth-consecutive game with at least one point. Bernie Mowbray and Ian Marinacci accounted for the final two VMI goals while Moran and Alex Hentorn had one assist each.

“It takes a bunch of games and a bunch of injuries and rotating some guys around and systematic changes to sometimes find something that works out and works out well,” said Anken of the struggles the team has faced in 2013. “We felt good about Mike’s role coming into today’s game, but we didn’t imagine him exploding for four goals and some of the crucial goals he had, especially early on. Mike has the capability to do that every game.”

Manhattan (3-10, 0-5 MAAC) was paced by two goals from Patrick Hodapp, while Tyler Eidel and Brett Madarasz contributed one goal and one assist each. Ryan Payton and Tyler Jarvis notched one goal apiece.

Leading the nation with 15.1 saves per game, Lindemann seems to always have big games against Manhattan, coming up with 18 stops on Saturday. Last season, he turned aside 15 Jasper shots. With his 18 saves at Drill Field #2, Lindemann has 328 career saves, putting him just 10 away from sixth-place all-time in program history.

Across from Lindemann, Rich Akapnitis suffered the loss, making 11 saves against VMI’s 26 total shots, but allowed 10 goals, including seven in the first half.

The defense in front of Lindemann was stout, forcing 12 Jasper turnovers, including three each from Tyler Prasnicki, who was sixth in the country with 2.33 caused turnovers per game, and Baker, who had a team-high six groundballs. The pair of Jenkins and Rory Dillon each had two caused turnovers. The six goals allowed are not only the fewest by the Keydets this season, but the fewest allowed against the Jaspers in the 13 previous meetings. The six Jasper goals were the fewest VMI has allowed in a MAAC game since taking down Wagner College 13-6 on March 29, 2008.

Not only did the Keydets hold Manhattan to just six goals, but the man-down defensive unit stepped up big as VMI was hit was an uncharacteristic five penalties. The penalty killers held Manhattan off the board, despite three and a half minutes of penalty time.

It was another winning day for VMI at the faceoff X as the Keydets collected 11 wins in 19 draws. Three of those wins came by violation in the first half, giving the Keydets one of their two extra-man chances in the game. Sophomore Gaston Ledford went 11-18 (61.1 percent) for VMI, while Patrick Hine, a long stick midfielder, took one draw.

While the Keydets did not pour on the shots, taking 26 in the game against the Jaspers’ 42 total, VMI made them count, scoring on over a third of their shots and put over 80 percent of its shots on goal. East was VMI’s leading shooter, taking seven chances, with six on cage.

Things started well for VMI as Mowbray tagged his 14th goal of the season just three minutes into the game to give VMI a lead it would never relinquish. That advantage was boasted to 2-0 with 8:16 left in the first quarter as East buried his first of the day halfway through an extra man chance. The goal, which was assisted by Mowbray, gave East his seventh man-up goal of the year, tying him for the most in a season since 2004.

After Manhattan scored with 6:48 in the first, DeBlasio stepped up and tallied his ninth of the season on a pass from Moran to push the lead to 3-1. The Jaspers caught VMI sleeping with 45 seconds left in the opening quarter to make things closer, 3-2 in favor of the Keydets.

But VMI doubled its advantage three minutes into the second stanza as Mordaga scored a dish from Snowbarger to push it to 4-2. Manhattan again pulled within striking distance at 9:00, but it was DeBlasio who answered back with consecutive goals, including VMI’s second extra-man tally of the day. The Keydets, who were ranked 31st in the country on the power play, went 2-2 Saturday after DeBlasio notched his second goal, thanks to the Jaspers’ third faceoff violation, resulting in the man-up opportunity.

East continued VMI’s run with his second on a day that saw him extend his MAAC-leading goal scoring streak to 20 games, burying a shot with five minutes to go in the first half. Manhattan scored its only back-to-back goals of the game at 4:25 and 3:21 in the second to fight back to a two-goal deficit at halftime, 7-5.

After a combined 12 goals in the first half, the next 30 minutes belong to the defense as the teams netted four goals, three of which were from the crosses of VMI players. After holding the Jaspers scoreless for the entirety of the third quarter, the Keydets allowed only one goal in the final 15 minutes of the game. The single marker is the fewest goals VMI has allowed in a half since Mercer scored twice in the second half of the 2012 meeting and the fewest goals in a half the Keydets have allowed since Brian Anken took the reins in 2011.

DeBlasio potted the lone third-quarter goal, his fourth and final marker of the day, getting the dish from Mordaga with 7:01 left in the stanza, putting VMI up 8-5.

Another pair of goals from Snowbarger and Marinacci, who started on defense for the Keydets, put the game on ice. Marinacci scored in transition after a Lindemann save got up and out for the fast break.

The Jaspers notched one final marker with 6:36 left to finalize the 10-6 Keydet victory.

The Keydets hit the road for their final game of the 2013 slate next Saturday, heading north to Loudonville, N.Y. for a clash with Siena College. Game time is set for noon at Siena Turf Field.