LEXINGTON, Va. - Anticipating a strong start to the season, the VMI lacrosse team won its first season opener in 19 years by defeating visiting Manhattan College 11-10 Saturday afternoon at Drill Field No. 2.
The season-opening win was VMI's first since the 2000 season when the Keydets (1-0) defeated Virginia Tech by a 9-7 count. Former MAAC counterparts from 2003-13, the Keydets improve to 5-11 all-time against the Jaspers and avenge last season's 12-7 season-opening loss at Manhattan.
The game was close the entire match with the Keydets three times gaining a two-goal advantage only to see the Jaspers (1-1) climb their way back. Manhattan clamped down on the Keydets in the latter half of the third quarter to gain a 9-6 advantage heading into the fourth.
VMI rebounded quickly in the final quarter, picking up three goals in the first five minutes of the stanza to knot the game back up at nine apiece with 10 minutes left in regulation. The Jaspers again took the lead with just under eight minutes to play but late goals from Johnny Daniel and Ryan Perouty put the Keydets back on top for good and VMI held on the last two minutes to earn the hard-fought win.
"I'm so proud of these guys," said VMI head coach Jon Birsner. "That game was back and forth and we were down late but it’s a credit to our upperclass leadership - they led this team to that fourth-quarter comeback. I thought Coach (Sean) Doyle did a great job settling our defense. Manhattan was having a lot of success with their two-man game and we regrouped and held on strong in the fourth quarter.
"I'm really proud of Ben Stump getting his first college start and win today in goal. (Bill) Osteen went down last week with a broken thumb and Ben was next man up and he made some huge fourth quarter saves to get us the ball back."
Last year's leading scorer for VMI, Perouty is off to a good start in 2019 as he finished the match with a game-high four goals. Redshirt freshman Josh Bass played a big role with three goals while Daniel added a pair. Jon Fant and John O'Donnell were credited with the other scores during the game.
The Jaspers were paced by three goals from Luke Hanson while Tadhg O'Riordan and Jake Nicolosi each had a pair.
Earning his first career start at goal, VMI keeper Benjamin Stump played a complete game and logged 14 saves in the effort to move to 1-0 on the season. Manhattan's Brendan Krebs was given 15 saves as he moves to 1-1 with the loss.
The Keydets return to action next Saturday with another home contest against NJIT slated for a noon start at Drill Field No. 2.