Generals rally to win sixth straight Lee-Jackson Classic

The Generals Men’s Lacrosse team continues stronghold on the Lee-Jackson Classic, scoring the last five goals of the game to win sixth straight in the series


A member of the Generals Men’s Lacrosse team in a game last year. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Information.

Conor Habiger

Attackman Chris Comerford, ’17, rattled off five goals and recorded an assist while goalie Wyatt Devine, ’16, made 11 saves, as the Generals created a 17-12 lead late to pull away from Virginia Military Institute in the annual Lee-Jackson Classic on Oct. 23.

VMI’s Eric Shaver, ‘17, scored three goals and Wesley Sanders, ‘18, pitched-in three assists for an energetic Keydet team. They pressured the Generals into 15 turnovers and four failed defensive clears on the night, but it was not enough to stop a balanced Generals attack which saw eight players score.

The Generals benefitted from crafty playmaking by midfielder Whit Griffin, ‘17, who contributed four assists and two goals en route to a game MVP performance, and excellent execution in man-up situations, converting all three of their power play opportunities.

But the game was not decided until the fourth quarter. From the opening face-off, the Generals were blitzed by an aggressive VMI team that bombarded the Generals’ defense with 16 shot attempts in the first quarter alone.

After fifteen minutes, however, the Generals held a 4-2 lead.

VMI evened the score at the half by converting six of eight shots in the second quarter.

Though Head Coach Gene McCabe never thought his team “would lose the game during the second quarter” or at any other point, the Generals were undeniably caught in a contentious affair.

VMI held advantages in ground balls gained, face-offs won, and extra-man opportunities. Despite this, Coach McCabe was pleased with his team’s performance, crediting good ball movement and an overall “high level” of play.

Deadlocked at 8-8, the Generals struggled to create offense in the third quarter, but made the five shots created count: converting four of them.

VMI held a face-off advantage throughout the game, but won six of nine in the third, giving the Keydets prime scoring opportunities. But they only managed six quality shots in a quarter in which they dominated possession overall.

Discipline was an issue for the Generals, as they surrendered three extra-man opportunities to VMI in the third quarter. But unlike the previous half, the Generals’ defense stood tout, successfully stopping a VMI power play that had converted a perfect four of four opportunities up to that point.

McCabe said he did not credit any half-time adjustments for his team’s success in man-down situations but rather that the best way to defend against extra-man situations was to simply “foul less.”

Fifteen minutes of play later, the Generals and Keydets again found the score knotted—this time at 12 goals apiece.

In the final timeframe, the Generals finally won the battle of possession, winning the majority of ground-balls and face-offs. Unlike VMI in the period before, however, the Generals made good use of their opportunities: scoring an unanswered five goals. Execution was also key: defensemen Matthew Infante, ‘17, Buck Armstrong, ’16, and Kyle Gifford, ’18, helped clear the ball a flawless six times against six VMI possessions, allowing for a volley of offensive shots on the other end.

The Generals have won 25 of the last 28 Lee-Jackson Game Classics and now six straight. For McCabe and the Generals, though, no win is trivial.

“I told [our guys] they would take a big step towards defining the culture of our team with how they played… [in the end,] I was proud,” McCabe said.