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Upbeat Big Green Rallies Past Catamounts for First Win

Dartmouth College midfielder Phil Hession, center, reaches for his stick yesterday after it and the ball were knocked out of his hand by Vermont’s Derek Braig, left. The Big Green posted a comeback, 13-8 victory at Scully-Fahey Field to improve to 1-1 this season. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Dartmouth College midfielder Phil Hession, center, reaches for his stick yesterday after it and the ball were knocked out of his hand by Vermont’s Derek Braig, left. The Big Green posted a comeback, 13-8 victory at Scully-Fahey Field to improve to 1-1 this season. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

Hanover — The University of Vermont men’s lacrosse team brought a yellow hard hat emblazoned with its Catamount logo onto the sidelines for yesterday’s nonconference game at Dartmouth. Ultimately, however, it was the Big Green that steamrolled the visitors with seven goals during the fourth quarter, en route to a 13-8 victory at Scully-Fahey Field.

Trailing 4-1 a minute before halftime, Dartmouth was in danger of starting the season 0-2 and losing to UVM at home for the first time in 13 such contests. Instead, the Big Green received the first of Jeff Perkins’ two goals 49 seconds before intermission, took a 6-5 lead on Jack Connolly’s second tally 24 seconds before the start of the fourth quarter and soon left the Catamounts staring at its tail lights.

UVM (0-3) came out in a tight, defensive zone and frustrated Dartmouth (1-1) early on. The Big Green successfully worked to increase its perimeter ball movement, however, scoring 12 of the contest’s last 16 goals. Chris Costabile and Nikki Dysenchuk joined Perkins and Connolly in scoring two goals apiece. Adam Hull and Adam Fishman each chipped in three assists while Perkins had two.

“Our zone was working well, but once they started getting goals, we had to extend out and then they started scoring even more,” said UVM defenseman Calder Billings, a sophomore and a Woodstock native who saw action on the Catamounts’ man-down unit. “Our offense had trouble with their defense, so it was an all-around problem.”

Dartmouth was a startling 22-of-22 on clears and forced 25 turnovers, but capitalized on only 1-of-7 extra man opportunities and won just 10-of-25 faceoffs.

“Once we got even or a goal up, we felt an added confidence that we were able to ride down the stretch,” said fourth-year Dartmouth coach Andy Towers, whose team tackles Georgetown (1-1) on Saturday on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Five years a Dartmouth assistant before being hired as the head man, Towers received a confidence boost of his own last summer when he was given a three-year contract extension. The Big Green coach is only 16-41 overall and 4-14 in the Ivy League, but he now has an entire roster of his own recruits and the hope is Dartmouth can make the four-team Ivy tournament for the first time this spring.

“I’ve been waiting for this team since I got the job, but we’re still very young,” Towers said. “Every year, we’re trying to bring in an entire recruiting class of starters. We want a perpetual tryout mentality from our guys, because if you create a situation where everybody’s a little on edge about their playing time, it’s tough to take a play or a practice or a game off.

“With the amount of talent we have stockpiled on this roster, we’ve got guys who can come in and maybe be better than the guys they’re playing behind.”

Sounds great, but that talent and the man directing it will soon be put to the test. The Ivy League is one of the best men’s lacrosse conferences in the country, with three teams in the current top 20 polls and sometimes as many as five of its seven members who play the sport on such lists.

Dartmouth may have better talent than in recent years, but will it be enough to capture more league victories? The answer begins to form March 23 against visiting Harvard.

“I keep saying ‘It’s going to be this year, it’s going to be this year,’ ” said senior defenseman and co-captain Pat Flynn. “This year I’m really confident about that, but I don’t want to talk about it too much, so the young guys don’t start to get out of line.”

And there are plenty of young guys getting playing time. Dartmouth started five underclassmen yesterday and 15 saw action, including six freshmen. Starting defenseman Max Randall is a freshman, as are impact midfielders Connolly, Cam Lee and Billy Heidt. Starting attackmen Fishman and Hull, both sophomores, entered this season with one collegiate start between them.

In addition, senior goaltender Bernie Susskind, who stopped six shots yesterday, was making only his second college start. Ranked the eighth-best incoming freshman backstop in the country by Inside Lacrosse Magazine in 2009, Suskind made several outstanding saves against UVM, although he also whiffed on a couple of goals.

“I feel so safe with him back there, so it’s weird to think he hasn’t started any games before this season,” Flynn said. “Bernie made some saves to bail us out in the second half today and he can hit the outlet pass to set us up for goals at the other end.”

Notes: Billings said his father, Jireh, lives in Woodstock and works at FH Gillingham & Sons General Store there. His mother, Natalie, lives in White River Junction. Billings, who played youth lacrosse in Woodstock from the third through sixth grades, later attended boarding schools, as did his two brothers. One of them, Nate, is a junior goaltender for UVM, but is ineligible this season after transferring from Bentley College in Massachusetts. … Dartmouth defenseman Austin Cohen was lost during yesterday’s game because of a hand injury. … Another defender, junior Gunnar Shaw, has yet to play this season. Shaw is a Norwich native and Hanover High product who’s battled knee injuries. … Teddy Reed, a standout defensive end for the football team as a senior last fall, is a reserve defenseman for the Big Green. Reed was an accomplished high school lacrosse player who hadn’t previously played the sport at Dartmouth. … Another senior, erstwhile midfielder R.C. Willenbrock, described by Towers in 2009 as “a home run recruit” out of Colorado, is no longer with the team. The coach described it as “sort of a mutual decision,” noting that Willenbrock returned to kick for the football squad last season and therefore missed fall lacrosse practice. “I can’t justify holding a roster spot for a guy who’s only going to be with us half time when there are guys dying to be on the team full time,” Towers said. … Dartmouth is wearing small, circular decals with the initials “PS” on the back of its helmets to honor former assistant coach Paul Schimoler, who recently died of cancer. The letters are in red on a black background, which is a nod to Schimoler’s All-American career as a goaltender at Cornell.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.