Charles Nailen/The Hoya Junior midfielder Nick Miaritis fights for position. He scored the game-winning goal in Saturday’s contest, edging the Hoyas past the Knights to maintain a perfect conference record.
It seemed like a harmless shot, really. But once it found its target, it had a much bigger impact than expected.
For No. 5 Georgetown men’s lacrosse, a lucky bounce in Saturday’s road contest at No. 10 Rutgers led to a 7-6 win and the team’s fourth ECAC title in the league’s five-year history.
With less than 30 seconds remaining in the game and the Scarlet Knights fighting their way back from a 6-3 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, the teams prepared for overtime.
Junior midfielder Nick Miaritis had taken the ball after the timeout, dodging at the top of the box to get a slightly better angle, but he was still shooting with his off hand and did not appear much of a threat.
Nevertheless, as Miaritis’ overhand shot skidded off the turf and lost velocity, it took a high arc over diving sophomore goalie Greg Havalchak and sneaked under the crossbar as the clock wound down to 0:15.
“He didn’t get off a great shot, but it was good enough,” Head Coach Dave Urick said. “When Nick took it to the goal, he took a bounce shot with his off hand, shoots it dead overhand . and the goalie stepped right by it. It almost looked like it went in in slow motion.”
Miaritis was elated with the result of his efforts but deferred credit to his teammates.
“It’s definitely one of the highlights of my career here at Georgetown. A lot of credit has to be given to the defense, they take so much of the pressure off. [Senior midfielder] Walid [Hajj] is always drawing the long pole, so I always have a short stick on me, which is nice. It all just worked out for us,” he said.
Throughout Saturday’s contest, it wasn’t particularly clear whether the Hoyas would be able to wrap up another conference championship. The teams played fairly even in the first half and though Georgetown held a huge 23-6 advantage in shots, it had mustered only a 4-3 lead.
Hajj, a co-captain, opened the scoring with his first of two goals at 12:39 of the first quarter, though Rutgers responded with two of its own to take the lead by 6:49 of the first.
With two minutes remaining, fellow senior co-captain and attackman Neal Goldman evened the score on a man-up goal, his sixteenth of the season and first with the man advantage. Sophomore attack Sean Denihan tallied the assist.
Freshman midfielder Garrett Wilson scored the first of his own two goals in the game to open the second quarter, while Hajj added another and the Hoyas opened a two-goal lead. Rutgers added another score with less than eight minutes left, and the teams failed to find the back of the net again until the second half.
“Obviously, neither team is scoring a lot of goals. We were, I thought, playing very good defense,” Urick said, highlighting the play of senior Andrew Braziel and sophomores John Trapp and Reyn Garnett, who has been playing very well of late.
“We weren’t able to generate nearly as much scoring as we’d like, but that’s kind of been the trend throughout the year for us,” he added. “We haven’t gotten away from too many teams. They were able to punch a couple in and get back in it, not that they were ever that far out of it.”
Junior goalie Rich D’Andrea, who finished with seven saves in the game, made three stops to hold the Scarlet Knights scoreless in the third.
Meanwhile, Georgetown added two more goals of its own, from Wilson and sophomore midfielder Wes Trice. At this point, it appeared that their vaunted defense was tightening the clamp, as they had been unable to do against UMass a week before.
But Rutgers began its comeback at 13:49 of the fourth, moving back to within two, before adding two late goals to tie and setting the stage for Miaritis’ unexpected heroics. The Scarlet Knights scored again late in the period before sophomore midfielder Tom O’Toole scored to even the game with only 0:23 on the clock.
“Defensively, we played well the whole game. Late in the game they had two fast-break goals that were really big. But we didn’t really let down that much in the fourth, I don’t think,” Garnett said. “[But] it was tough. It was a real close game, and then they got a gimme goal, too. Our guy got a check on him and it was just frustrating because we were winning the whole game. To have them tie it like that, it was tough.”
On the next faceoff, junior midfielder Andy Corno won his 14th in 17 tries.
“Just an incredible day’s work,” Urick said. “He got great wing play from Brice Queener and Brodie [Merrill], too.”
Corno fought for the ground ball, one of four he scooped up on Saturday, and gained possession before the Hoyas called timeout – setting the stage for the final goal.
On the strength of Miaritis’ lucky bounce, Georgetown evaded the Rutgers comeback to improve to 10-2 and a perfect 3-0 in the ECAC. With the conference down to four teams in 2004, however, the conference champion is no longer guaranteed a NCAA bid.
The Hoyas have doubtless earned a spot in the tournament, while Rutgers will be fighting for a spot at 8-4 (1-1 ECAC), with one game remaining against UMass, a team the Hoyas defeated 12-10 in their last meeting.
The Hoyas, meanwhile, are faced with the difficult task of playing host to No. 4 Syracuse and the Orangemen’s high-powered offense on Friday, May 7 at 3 p.m.
“It’s a Syracuse-Georgetown athletic event. When those teams play, it generates a lot of interest. And this is no exception,” Urick said, adding, “Our defense this week . is going to be tested severely. This Syracuse team, like most Syracuse teams, they can score goals.”
Garnett agreed, while Miaritis said, “I know that for me at least, I feel like I didn’t have my best game, even though I scored that goal. So this week I really need to work hard preparing for Syracuse, which is going to be a challenge. We definitely have to treat this week like we’re going into the playoffs. This is the playoffs. Chances are we’re likely to see this team again.”