Pearce shows you can go home again, and win

CHESTERTOWN — Tommy Pearce had been here before, and done that, facing off successfully against Washington College as the opposing team’s head lacrosse coach.

In 2016, Pearce led Maryland rival Frostburg State University to a 13-10, come-from-behind thriller on the Kibler pitch. It was FSU’s second straight win against Washington’s highly regarded program.

The year before, with Kent County High School grads Greg Bourne and Kreigh Kirby on the team, FSU at home defeated then-No. 16 Washington, 14-9. This was Frostburg’s first win over a ranked opponent since Pearce had been brought on board in the summer of 2009 to restart the program after a 30-year lapse.

By the way, Bourne, a starting midfielder and team captain, scored twice in that game.

The storyline was a little different Friday night when Pearce returned to his hometown of Chestertown.

He was six games into a new gig as head coach at Ithaca College in New York — after spending the last five years at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania where he was tasked with building a brand-new program, and nine years before that at Frostburg.

Washington hasn’t been nationally ranked for at least half a dozen years, and was off to a 1-4 start in 2024.

Also worth noting: graduate student Cole Corrigan, who spent the three previous seasons as the Shoremen’s goalie, was now in the cage for the visitors.

Corrigan was credited with 19 saves Friday night in the rain, including 13 after intermission, as the Bombers salvaged a 14-10 victory after leading by as many as eight goals early in the second half.

Ithaca (5-2) played from behind early.

Washington took a 2-0 lead five and a half minutes in on unassisted goals from Cam Carrigan and Nicky Bond in the span of 66 seconds.

John Sramac, also unassisted, dented the board for the Bombers with 4 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, touching off a run of 10 unanswered goals that bridged the first, second and third frames.

Sekou Ibrahima’s solo run 53 seconds into the second quarter broke a 2-2 tie, and Ithaca led the rest of the way.

Charlie Niebuhr and Kyle Proctor scored two goals apiece in the 10-0 run that produced a 10-2 Bombers’ lead with 13 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Grant Matthews’ man-up goal, off a look from Ben Dickinson, with 12:02 to play in the quarter sparked a run of four straight goals for the Shoremen, who cut the deficit to 10-6 on the second of Cory Morgan’s two goals with just under nine minutes to play in the third.

WC would get to within 11-9 on Dickinson’s unassisted goal with 11:49 remaining to cap a 3-0 run, but could get no closer.

The Bombers scored the next three goals over the next eight and a half minutes, including a pair of Derek Stout tallies, to push their lead to 14-9 and quash their hosts’ rally.

“We’ve had a tendency to start games slow this year and that’s something we are working on answers to, but we’ve also learned to stay the course until we get a defensive stop and clear or win a face-off to get the ball to the offense to start to get a rhythm on that end and work for high percentage shot opportunities,” Pearce told The Evening Enterprise in an email Sunday, March 17.

“We didn’t get a lot of possession time in the first quarter, but we got more in the second and were able to get rolling some,” he said. “When they switched primarily to zone defense in the second half, that slowed us, but I thought we did a pretty good job possessing late into the shot clock against the zone to shorten the game and protect our lead.” 

Washington outshot Ithaca, 46-38, and also led in shots on goal, 29-23.

Matthews and Morgan each scored twice for the Shoremen.

Washington’s Gabe Velasquez won 17 of 26 face-offs, and scooped up 10 ground balls to lead all players.

Freshman Colin Gray (six saves) made his sixth straight start as goalie and played the first half before being spelled by junior Will Charvala (three saves).

Niebuhr and Stout each had hat tricks for Ithaca, Proctor was two-and-two and Sam Baker assisted twice.

The Bombers’ stop in Chestertown was on their way back to Ithaca from Virginia Beach, where they defeated the College of Wooster, 8-7, two days earlier as part of their spring break trip.

There was a team dinner at Procolino’s, and Ithaca parents loaded up on pizza and subs for a post-game event, according to Pearce.

“I had plenty of Proc’s, which is always a top priority for me when I’m in town,” he said in his email.  

“It was awesome to see all my family and lots of friends for a little bit after the game,” he said. “My nephews and all my friends’ kids are growing up so fast, it’s crazy every time I see them.”

Pearce grew up in Chestertown and as a fan of Shoremen lacrosse.

He ultimately starred at Gettysburg College (1998-2001) and was an assistant coach there for four years.

Hall of famer John Nostrant is in his third year as head coach at alma mater Washington, where he was an All-America midfielder and played a key role on the national runner-up teams of 1984, ’85 and ’86,

Pearce said he would have been in the first grade when Nostrant was graduating from Washington in 1986; understandably so, he does not have memories of seeing Nostrant play.

“I’m certain my dad had me at games when he was playing, but I was still running around under the old bleachers with my friends and not really watching the games as much at that age,” Pearce told The Evening Enterprise

He said the first Washington College lacrosse player that he remembered seeing play “when I was a kid and wanting to play like” was All-American Tim Hormes ’90, who was inducted into the college’s hall of fame in 2003.

POSTSCRIPT: Washington (2-5) bounced back Sunday afternoon to upset previously unbeaten Skidmore, 16-15.

Sophomore attackman Cam Carrigan’s extra-man goal with 46 seconds remaining held up as the game-winner after Skidmore rallied from a 13-6 deficit to level the score at 15.

Look for a full report in The Evening Enterprise in the coming days.

Meantime, Ithaca, on a three-game winning streak, is idle until Saturday, March 23 when the Bombers travel to Vassar for their Liberty League opener.

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