Second Quarter Surge Sinks VMI Versus Mercer

LEXINGTON, Va. -- Virginia Military Institute was the victim of a second-quarter surge Sunday afternoon at Drill Field #2 as the visiting Bears of Mercer University took down the Keydets 16-8. Mercer out-scored VMI 6-1 in the second to put VMI in a 9-2 hole at halftime.

The loss was in spite of a very close second half, which saw VMI put away six goals against Mercers seven. But the damage had been done during the second quarter, during which Mercer scored six times while VMI potted just one goal.

VMI's offensive efforts were led by a pair of three point days from senior Russell East and freshman Gage Snowbarger, both of whom tallied two goals and had one assist. Junior Bernie Mowbray netted a pair of tallied while Domenick Stumpo took advantage of a scrum on the crease for his lone goal. Sophomore Mike DeBlasio put away a goal midway through the fourth quarter.

Predictably, Mercer was led by its leading scorers, Chris Baxa and Zack Ward. The leading duo combined for eight goals, each scoring four, while also having one helper apiece. Cole Branch finished with three goals and one assist as Harry Baker tallied a pair. John Avent and Keoni Rausch each scored once. Eoin Collins was the game's leading assister with three. Timmy Geran had two helpers as Clay Rivers and Wilton McKown had one assist each.

In goal, it was another standout day for VMI's senior netminder Matt Lindemann. The 6-5 backstop made 14 saves, including eight in the second half which included several shots from in close. With his 10th double-digit save effort of the season, Lindemann moved into eighth place all-time at VMI with 310 career saves. The Oakton, Va. native has 167 saves on the season, the most by a Keydet since Brian Ward made 169 in 2002.

Opposite Lindemann, Mercer's Mike Nugent stopped 14 VMI attempts, including four in the first and fourth quarters.

For a second straight game, the Keydets won the groundball battle, scooping 32 against Mercer's 30. VMI grabbed 10 groundballs in the third quarter, which helped spark a run early in the period. VMI's faceoff specialist Gaston Leford nabbed a game-high six groundballs while winning 15 of the 28 draws in the game.

The Keydets had another solid outing in transition, clearing 19 of their 21 tries,. During one of those clear attempts, Keydet captain Rory Dillon had an assist, feeding East for VMI's first goal of the game.

Uncharacteristically, the Keydets took six penalties during the game, one of which was incurred after three faceoff violations in the second half. Stumpo served the faceoff violation penalty as the team's designated in-home player in the book.

However, VMI, which was ranked 28th in the country in man-up offense entering the game, scored on two of the Bears' three penalties.

The game was designated as VMI's Wounded Warrior Project game, with the coaching staff sporting Wounded Warrior Project T-shirts during the game as well as the team warming up in the same shirts. At halftime, Betsy Alter, sister of the team's director of lacrosse operations and second classman Eric Alter, presented the Wounded Warrior Project with a check for $950 she raised prior to the game. A total of the Keydets' fundraising efforts will be available early next week.

"Great job by Mercer today," said VMI head coach Brian Anken. "Such a great day for us with the Wounded Warrior Project and getting an opportunity to raise some funds for that cause and it's something we take a lot of pride in."

Last season, the team raised nearly $5,000 for the Project, a benchmark for the program.

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