Men’s lacrosse edges debut NJIT varsity program by two goals

by Emily Wechsler | 4/16/15 5:15pm

Men’s lacrosse broke its three-game losing streak with a 7-5 win against the New Jersey Institute of Technology Tuesday, ending the Highlanders’ debut season at 0-12. The meeting at NJIT’s Lubetkin Field at Mal Simion Stadium brought Dartmouth’s record to 4-6 with three games to play. Dartmouth’s usual standouts took to the stage again as Wiley Osborne ’17 had four assists, Jack Korzelius ’18 marked a hat trick, Adam Fishman ’15 notched his 15th goal of the season and goalkeeper Blair Friedensohn ’16 made 11 saves. A new face in Cody George ’18 stepped onto the board with a tally, and Jack Connolly ‘16 and Billy Heidt ’16 finished out the Big Green’s seven markers. The Big Green entered the match unsure what to expect, head coach Brendan Callahan said. NJIT’s new program is led by head coach Travis Johnson. Johnson was given just over a year to build a team and recruited more than 20 freshmen, completing the roster with just two older members, a sophomore and a senior from the club team. NJIT is the 11th start-up since 2010, according to Inside Lacrosse. The school recently transitioned to NCAA Division 1 status, but is not included in a conference. The fledgling team brought an unusual style into their match with Dartmouth. By running a possession game that at times looked more like a stall, the Highlanders were able to control the ball, take quality shots and limit Dartmouth’s offensive opportunities, contributing to the low score. At one point, Friedensohn said, NJIT held the ball for around seven minutes — an extremely long time for the Big Green defense to work continuously. The situation was not helped by Dartmouth’s poor performance on faceoffs, losing 11 of 16. It was a challenging style to play against, but not one the team is likely to spend much time learning to counter, Friedensohn said, as it is not one they expect to see again this season. “I knew if we came out and played well, we could certainly get her done,” Callahan said of the game. “The guys found a way to make it happen.” Dartmouth took the lead immediately in the match, scoring two goals in the first two minutes. NJIT got on the board with six minutes to play in the first quarter, then tied the score with just over a minute remaining. Dartmouth scored moments later to end the first quarter up 3-2. Korzelius netted the only goal in the second quarter, and NJIT had two goals in the third to enter the fourth quarter with the teams knotted at four. With one more goal for each side to start the fourth, it was not until just 7:26 remained that Korzelius was able to put Dartmouth up for good, netting two goals to close the final quarter. The star freshman was at it again. “I definitely think that there is always room for improvement, never settling for anything like that,” Korzelius said of the recent praise he has received. The team was, Callahan said, “a little tired and beat from the weekend,” having dropped its Princeton match Saturday. The team tried to learn from the loss to move forward into Tuesday’s game. “It was back to the basics, the details of what we did,” Callahan said. “We spent some time talking about what it meant to be a team and play together. Hey, we’ve got to shoot the ball better, we’ve got to communicate better on defense, we felt like there were some cracks in the base-level of our fundamentals and our skills, and we focused on that in the game today.” Tuesday, Callahan said, should be a springboard win, as Dartmouth has started the path to hitting its target of finishing the last four games 4-0. The Big Green has just a few days to prepare for its last road game at the University of Pennsylvania, but is now focusing on the bigger picture — the team has just two remaining games that could decide whether or not they make the Ivy League Tournament. “That’s the reason all of us came here — so we could win the Ivy League tournament,” Freidensohn said. “We’ve all been dreaming about it, so that’s really on the forefront of our minds — dedicating every second the next two weeks to that reaching that goal.” This season, which many saw as a rebuilding year under a new head coach, has had so far a large emphasis on improvement and growth. Now, Friedensohn said, the team is finally focusing less on getting better and more on simply trying to win. “We’ve actually established that we have improved every single week, and that’s why improvement is no longer our goal, but now, setting the next standard, is winning,” he said. “We’ve earned the right to set that as our goal.” The players are excited to have reached this point in the season, where they will be putting their work into practice. “The biggest part of our season is right now. These next games determine where we’re going to head, if we make these playoffs,” Korzelius said. “It’s definitely an awesome ride so far but we’re focused on finishing up in the way we want.” The team will play the University of Pennsylvania Saturday at noon in Philadelphia.