It was fitting that the seesawing battle royale the No. 17 men's lacrosse team staged with Hartford on Wednesday afternoon would come down to two possessions in overtime.
After the Bears had twice rallied from multiple-goal deficits to tie the pesky Hawks, Hartford took the ball first in overtime but was stymied by the Brown defense.
After a successful clear, Andrew Feinberg '11, positioned behind and to the right of the cage, rainbowed a pass that seemed to hang in the air for an eternity over the defense and across the field to David Hawley '11, who fired a shot that found the back of the net.
"It was awesome," Hawley said. "I couldn't ask for a better time and place. I had all the time in the world to shoot that ball. I just put it on cage and luckily it went in."
The crowd of 617 that packed Meister-Kavan Field exploded. For the Bears, the 13-12 victory eased the sting of a season-opening 15-12 loss to No. 10 Hofstra and fulfilled Head Coach Lars Tiffany's '90 goal of improving with every game.
"Coming off the Hofstra loss, playing at home today, we absolutely needed the win to start the season in the right direction," Hawley said. "Hopefully we'll take the next step this weekend."
The Bears started slowly against a tough Hartford team. The Hawks entered the game with a 1-2 record, but their two losses had come to then-No. 17 Massachusetts and No. 14 Delaware. Despite getting goals from quad-captain Thomas Muldoon '10 and Feinberg, Brown faced a 5-2 deficit after one quarter, as Hartford won six out of eight face-offs.
"We came out pretty slow, and we knew we just had no tempo, we weren't playing with heart," Hawley said. "We got some good speeches from the captains. They really picked up the tempo and led the team to get those ground balls and those face-off wins for us."
The Bears turned the tables on the Hawks in the second, winning 6-of-7 face-offs and outracing the visitors to 11-of-16 ground balls en route to posting a 19-3 advantage in shots for the quarter.
Rob Schlesinger '12 and Parker Brown '12 both scored to cut the deficit to 5-4 just 3:40 into the quarter, and Feinberg and Brown scored 29 seconds apart to give Bruno its first lead with 7:02 remaining in the half. After Hartford tied the game, Hawley answered to send the Bears to halftime with a 7-6 lead.
Tiffany said it was especially crucial to secure ground balls and win face-offs in this game "because both offenses were going to score goals."
The third quarter was back-and-forth for most of the way. Hartford goalie Scott Bement never let Brown open up a multiple-goal lead, making 14 saves on the game. The Hawks struck twice in the third minute to retake the lead, but goals by Feinberg and Nicholas Laster '12 gave the Bears a 9-8 lead with 5:24 left.
Suddenly, Hartford scored three goals, including its second man-up goal of the game, in the final four minutes of the quarter.
"There was a confidence building on our sideline with the way we played second quarter, third quarter and then bang — Hartford took it to us," Tiffany said. "Knowing how good the Hartford goalie is, not everything was going to go in, so we were going to need a lot of good shot opportunities."
But the Bears were undaunted, despite heading into the final quarter down, 11-9.
"I've been fortunate to have men who compete and have always had a quiet confidence on the sideline, stay positive with each other, and fortunately they did that again today," Tiffany said.
The lead remained two after the Hawks quickly answered Parker Brown's third goal of the game in the first three minutes, but the Bears seemed to gain energy after killing off a one-minute penalty with just under 11 minutes left. Quad-captain Reade Seligmann '10 cut the lead to 12-11 with 8:22 left, and then the waiting began.
After Matt Chriss '11 had a pair of strong saves on Hartford's ensuing possession, a subsequent long Brown possession ended fruitlessly. But Roger Ferguson '13 secured a ground ball at midfield, and the Bears charged the other way and tied the game on a Feinberg goal with 3:04 left.
When the Bears survived a 30-second man-down situation in the final minute of regulation, the game headed to overtime.
"The man-down unit stepped up big when it really mattered most," Tiffany said.
In overtime, Hartford failed to get a shot off on before Peter Fallon '11 scooped up a ground ball and Brown cleared its defensive zone. When Hawley scored the game-winner, the Bears earned a hard-fought victory.
"It just kind of sets the tone for the season," Hawley said. "We really didn't want to go 0-2 for the first two games, so getting the first win at home is a huge thing for taking the next step this weekend and hopefully going 2-1."
The Bears will travel to Philadelphia on Saturday to face 0-6 St. Joseph's.
"We've earned a good win over a good team, and — right on the field we're standing on right now — we're going to get to work in less than 24 hours and try to make it better because our team defense needs to get a lot better," Tiffany said. "The offense has developed earlier than we expected, but it's probably due to the fact that we've got such experience there with Reade Seligmann, Thomas Muldoon and Andrew Feinberg."
"Moving forward, it's one win, and now," Tiffany said, "it's all about St. Joe's."