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Wingate holds off Tusculum 9-8 in SAC semifinals

Wingate holds off Tusculum 9-8 in SAC semifinals

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Wingate outlasted Tusculum 9-8 in the South Atlantic Conference Men's Lacrosse Championship semifinals Thursday night at Queens University's Dickson Field.

The 11th-ranked Bulldogs (12-3), seeded second in the tournament, broke the fifth and final tie of the game with 13:01 left to defeat the third-seeded and 20th-ranked Pioneers (11-4) by one goal for the second time in five days. Wingate will face the fourth-seeded host Queens on Saturday for the SAC championship after the Royals stunned top-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne 10-9 in overtime in the other semifinal.

Jeremy Sullivan led Wingate with two goals and an assist while Ryan Vogrig and Wyatt Weiseman each scored a pair of goals for the Bulldogs, with Weiseman's second goal of the night standing up as the game-winner. Keegan Bell and Ben Boyd each scored two goals for the Pioneers, with a goal and an assist apiece by Cam Rogers, Chris Ryan and Dallas Wade. Nate Wade had a pair of assists for Tusculum to become the third player in program history with 100 career points, with 101.

Wingate opened the scoring on a goal by Sullivan just 1:01 into the first quarter, but Bell responded nearly three minutes later for the Pioneers to tie the score at 1-1. Goals from Conor Gronbach and Sullivan extended the Wingate lead to 3-1 with 7:33 to go in the first half, but the Pioneers came right back on goals by Rogers and Boyd, the latter tying the game at 3-3 with 2:46 to play in the quarter.

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs scored twice in six seconds on goals from Vogrig and Weiseman to go ahead 5-3 with 9:53 remaining in the half. Bell's second goal of the game trimmed the Wingate lead to 5-4 with 2:13 left in the half, and Boyd added his second of the day just 25 seconds later as the teams went to halftime tied 5-5.

Vogrig scored for the second time to put Wingate back on top 7-6 with 11:35 remaining in the third quarter, but the Pioneers came back again on a goal by Dallas Wade which knotted the score at 7-7 with 6:21 left. Alex Llerandi responded just under two minutes later for the Bulldogs, who carried the 7-6 lead into the final quarter.

The Pioneers tied the game for the fifth time at 7-7 on a man-up goal by Ryan with 13:09 left, but Weiseman won the ensuing faceoff and scored eight seconds later to restore Wingate's lead at 8-7. Tusculum had an extra-man opportunity midway through the quarter but was unable to score, and had its last scoring chance with 4:15 left on a short-range shot by Liam Macdonald that was stopped by Wingate keeper Will Sheridan.

Wingate held possession for most of the final four minutes, but a turnover in the offensive end gave Tusculum one final possession to try and find the equalizer. However, the Pioneers' last shot attempt was blocked and the Bulldogs ran out the clock to advance to Saturday's championship game.

In addition to his two goals, Weiseman won 13-of-17 faceoffs for the Bulldogs and collected a game-high 10 ground balls. Wingate had a 26-20 edge in ground balls, with three apiece from Tyler Antram and Anthony Crisera. The Pioneers were led by goalkeeper Kevin Haggerty who had five ground balls, with four from Ross Parsons and three by Boyd. Haggerty, Dallas Wade and Tyler Klarner each had two caused turnovers for Tusculum, while Austin Murphy had a pair for Wingate.

Haggerty made 12 saves in goal for the Pioneers, including seven in the second half, while Sheridan made seven saves for the Bulldogs. Wingate finished the game with a 39-23 advantage in shots, including 20-12 in the second half.

Thursday's game was the final contest in a Pioneer uniform for seven seniors, including Boyd who departs as the program career leader in goals (105) and points (138) after setting single-season records with 39 goals and 52 points this season. Boyd is also third all-time in ground balls with 120, while Alexander Kleinberg finishes his career second with 169 ground balls and first with 326 faceoff wins.

Ryan departs ranked second in program history in goals (79) and points (105), and tied with Boyd for the career lead with five game-winning goals. Ross Parsons finished his Tusculum career third in caused turnovers with 38 and fourth with 105 ground balls.

Haggerty wrapped up his three-year Tusculum career holding all of the program's goalie records, including career marks for saves (496), save percentage (.543), goals against average (9.92), minutes played (2,529), wins (21) and starts (43). He also set new program single-season records this season for save percentage (.584), goals against average (8.35) and wins (11).

Tusculum finished a milestone season that saw the Pioneers set program records in nearly every category, including goals (205), goals per game (13.67), assists (138), caused turnovers (118), ground balls (490), save percentage (.572) and goals against average (8.48). Tusculum was ranked for the final four weeks of the regular season, reaching as high as 19th in the USILA Division II Top 20 poll, and suffered all four of its losses to ranked teams, including three by one goal.

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