Finally! After all of the snow, sleet, and cold wind, spring has made its way to Athens, Georgia. So after putting up with all of the weather issues, we were rewarded with warmth and sunshine for two rivalry match-ups with the Tigers: Auburn and Clemson.
I was in the upper deck of Jordan-Hare Stadium back in November this past football season. The first half sucked; plain and simple. But the second half, specifically the fourth quarter, was a totally different story. When Aaron Murray snuck across the goal line on 4th down (stop complaining, Auburn, replay confirmed the call), I thought we had just pulled off another “Miracle on the Plains.” But destiny had other plans. I still can’t watch the replay of that final scoring play on 4th and 18. Needles to say, we weren’t having any of that on the lacrosse field.
It was a slow, sloppy start to the game. Both teams (including Coach Meutzel of the Tigers) were very familiar with each other because most of both teams’ players are from the Atlanta area. Junior Attackman Michael Trainer opened up the scoring, with freshman attackman Phil McCarthy and junior attackman George Walker following closely behind with goals of their own. Although it was only 3-1 at the end of the first quarter, we all believed we had control of the game. We started to put the foot on the gas and went into halftime up 7-1.
Things got a little chippy in the second half with the lopsided score, but both teams kept their heads. The final score from Athens was 14-4, and a big division win for the Dawgs. Coolest moment of the game had to be from Auburn’s sophomore attackman Chris Katz (Alpharetta, Ga/Alpharetta HS). From 10 yards out, Katz hit the crossbar. The ball ricocheted right back to him and he scored. Goal and assist, pretty creative.
Sunday brought another rivalry: Clemson vs Georgia. Over the past few seasons, every game between our two squads has been extremely heated. Fun fact: in my four years, the visiting team has won each time. The home team hasn’t won once. The previous season, Clemson came to Athens and handed us our first loss of the season. The score was 8-5 and it wasn’t even that close. In the first round of the SELC Tournament, it took 4 overtimes to come up with a winner. Clemson tied it late in the fourth quarter, but we were finally able to end it after almost another full quarter of game time. Needless to say, we knew the Tigers would want a little revenge.
The game started off with a lot of shots by Clemson, but we found out quickly that junior goalie Alex Austin was in the zone. After some good chances by both squads, we drew first blood when I hit a shot on our first man-up opportunity. The Tigers responded with two of their own, but George Walker hit the back of the net to tie it after wrapping around from x right before the end of the first. The battle was on.
After several more great saves from Austin, we took advantage of a man-up situation when I found the back of the net on a bouncer sweeping across the top. 3-2 Dawgs at the half. The second half started just the way the first half ended: both goalies on fire and neither defense letting the other offense get into any kind of rhythm. Midway through the quarter, Phil McCarthy scored and the flood gates opened. George Walker pumped in 2 goals and junior midfielder DJ Nuckolls added another. In the fourth, Walker continued his torrid pace with his fourth goal of the day.
When the final whistle blew, it was 8-5 Dawgs. Alex Austin finished with 13 saves and junior defenseman Jackson Ruck scooped up 11 groundballs. Faceoff specialist Harrison Cassada had some key faceoff wins, finishing with 6 wins total.
After a very slow start by our standards, we’ve finally come together and started playing as a team. We’ve cleaned up a lot of the issues that hurt us in the first month of the season. The guys have stayed focused and stayed positive throughout the first month, knowing it would come together as long as we kept grinding. The coaches did a great job continuing to tweak and fix any problem that arose. Heading into spring break, I like where we are at with our game. Things don’t get any easier, but I know our guys are up to the challenge. The break will be great to get everyone healthy, but we’ll be hitting it hard again as soon as we’re back.
The Dawgs travel to Blacksburg, Virginia the weekend of March 21st for games with Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.