The 2009 Wesleyan men’s lacrosse team did something that eluded each of the last eight Cardinals lax squads: winning a NESCAC tournament title and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
Reaching the NESCAC playoff semi-finals for the seventh year in a row and the championship game for the fifth time in team history, Wesleyan finally realized its goal of a conference title on May 3 when the Cardinals downed the Tufts Jumbos, 14–10, for the NESCAC crown. Head Coach John Raba, who stands a remarkable 155–67 over his 13 seasons, was named New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (NEILA) Division III Coach of the Year for the fifth time. Raba called winning the NESCAC title “one of our best weekends ever.”
Wesleyan had qualified at-large for the NCAAs in 2005, 2006, and 2007, reaching the national semi-finals in the latter two seasons.
Part of Wesleyan’s first big accolade in 2009 came in February as All-American defender Spike Malangone ’09 received Inside Lacrosse magazine’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors. Malangone is a two-time United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Division III second-team All-American.
Wesleyan’s reward for capturing a NESCAC crown was a pair of home games in the NCAA Division III tournament. Wesleyan disposed of Eastern Connecticut State University, 8–4, in its tournament opener. Each of the four times Wesleyan has appeared in the NCAAs, it has won its initial contest. But when Wesleyan met Middlebury for the third time this season in a national quarter-final, the Panthers outscored their hosts 7–1 in the second half to secure a 13–5 triumph. While the loss ended the team’s 10th consecutive winning season with a 15–4 record, the memory of a NESCAC crown will serve as inspiration for the 2010 campaign.
The USILA announced its 2009 Division III All-Americans on May 19. Spike Malangone ’09 was a first-team defender and Russ Follansbee ’09 was a third-team attackman.