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Star-Spangled Green Roars Back

Dartmouth College goaltender Bernie Susskind watches a Robert Morris shot carom off his stick during the first half of yesterday's nonconference clash with the Colonials at Scully-Fahey Field. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Dartmouth College goaltender Bernie Susskind watches a Robert Morris shot carom off his stick during the first half of yesterday's nonconference clash with the Colonials at Scully-Fahey Field. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

Hanover — The Dartmouth College men’s lacrosse team struck a patriotic note during yesterday’s 11-9 win over Robert Morris at Scully-Fahey Field. The all-American hosts, who trailed by four goals shortly after halftime, staged a comeback against an opponent boasting significant Canadian talent.

The Big Green’s 42-man roster is comprised completely of U.S.-born competitors. The Colonials, who have had a Division I program for only eight years, feature six players from Ontario, two from Alberta and another from Manitoba. At one point during the second half, the Dartmouth student section broke into chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Although Canadians play outdoor lacrosse, the indoor version, or “box lacrosse,” is much more popular and tends to take place in hockey rinks during the warmer months. Several NCAA men’s programs have recently risen in prominence on a tide of Canadian imports, and Robert Morris is clearly trying the same tactic.

In broad terms, box lacrosse players tend to excel in tight space, passing, catching and shooting while withstanding heavy hits. Field lacrosse tends to reward those who can cover more ground, and gives its practitioners additional time and space in which to operate.

During yesterday’s first half, Robert Morris repeatedly carved up Dartmouth’s defense with quick ball movement and deadly shooting. After intermission, however, the Colonials (2-3) seemed to struggle with agility and conditioning, allowing the Big Green (2-2) to climb back into the game.

“It’s really hard to prepare for teams that have that box influence,’’ said Dartmouth coach Andy Towers. The Colonials “are tremendous perimeter players who are really tough, smart and handle the ball well. They finish their opportunities and they can be a scary team when they get rolling on offense.

“I’d like to think we had an edge in athleticism and depth. While we dug ourselves a hole, we ultimately exceeded their intensity during the second half, and that was the difference.”

One of the game’s turning points wasn’t a goal, an assist or a big hit, but a heads-up play by Dartmouth attackman Chris Costabile when his team trailed, 8-5, early in the third quarter. Perched on one side of the midfield stripe, the senior watched an opponent cradle the ball and carelessly drift back toward him from the other side.

As the Colonial looked downfield toward the Big Green net, Costabile reached out with one hand on his stick and tomahawked the ball loose while keeping his feet onside. The turnover was scooped up by Dartmouth and seconds later, Mike Olentine fired in a bounce shot off a 2-on-1 break.

Costabile struck again early in the fourth quarter, firing a wicked bounce shot from a sharp angle on the left side to make the score 8-8 after taking a pass from Adam Hull. A sophomore who saw little time last season, Hull also set up J.P. Garry’s winning goal, feeding him from deep on the left side for a shot similar to Costabile’s with five minutes remaining.

Olentine, Costabile and Brendan Rotanz each finished with two goals but it was Hull, a Long Island, N.Y., product, who stood out. He had three assists, has 10 of them in four games and leads his team with 13 points. He appeared in six contests last season, starting once and putting up two goals.

“He’s got great hands and he makes people better with and without the ball,” Towers said. “As good a feeder as he is, he’s also our best off-ball player.”

Notes: Dartmouth played without freshman midfielder Cam Lee, who has four goals and an assist in three games. Towers said Lee, who committed to Duke before changing his mind and joining the Big Green, sat out for violating team rules. Also absent was attackman Jeff Perkins, whom Towers said is recovering from a concussion and who has two goals and three assists in two games.

Robert Morris is located in suburban Pittsburgh and plays in the Northeast Conference. There is also a Robert Morris University in Illinois, but the schools are not affiliated. … Dartmouth has played UNC and Duke on its recent spring break trips, but dropped the Blue Devils from this year’s schedule. Towers cited Dartmouth’s new academic calendar and the desire not to crowd games against the Tar Heels, Duke and Harvard into a single week as reasons for the change.