New London - Two of the smallest players covering their real estate at Silfen Field came up big when it mattered most for Connecticut College on Saturday.
Goalie Rob Moccia, who stands 5-foot-7 seven, made 13 saves and 5-9 midfielder Stephen Eicher had two goals and an assist during a crucial four-goal outburst in the third quarter that allowed fourth-seeded Conn to sprint past No. 5 Colby College, 11-6, in the quarterfinals of the New England Small College Athletic Conference men's lacrosse tournament.
The Camels (10-5), who escaped with an 8-7, four-overtime victory over the Mules late last month, advance to Saturday's semifinals at No. 1 Tufts, a 14-10 winner over No. 8 Amherst.
Tufts beat Conn 16-9 on March 13, but the Camels have won eight of their last night games and are undoubtedly peaking at the perfect time.
"We're looking forward to it," said Eicher, a junior from Northport, N.Y. "It's my first win the the playoffs since I've been here and we're definitely excited and ready to get going again."
The victory was particulary sweet for the senior class and coach Dave Cornell, who guided Conn to its first semifinal berth since 2001 when current athletic director Fran Shields was the coach and the Camels beat Trinity 11-7 in the quarterfinals.
"I'm so happy for the senior class," Cornell said. "They're really my first recruited class to come in here, and for them to go through four years and finally get a (postseason) win ... We had a home game two years ago as the (number) one seed and lost Wesleyan. That was probably the toughest loss I've ever had in my life, including a national championship loss when I was an assistant coach. This is kind of a redemption win for those guys."
Moccia, an All-NESCAC selection two years ago as a sophomore, was one of eight seniors to win their final game at Silfen Field.
"It's awesome," he said. "For four years we've been looking for this win and we finally got it. ... We have a lot of heart on this team, and that's what really what gets us through these games."
Saturday's game turned in Conn's favor right after Colby (9-5) had taken a 4-3 lead on a goal by John Jennings just 3:10 into third second half.
The Mules won the ensuing faceoff and went on the attack looking for a two-goal advantage, but were turned away by Moccia. Eicher tied the game 1:35 later by snapping a shot from close range past Colby goalie Peter Reiley.
The Camels would never trail again.
Eicher set up Kevin Dachille with 4:41 left in the third quarter, Andrew Freedman scored 1:14 later and Eicher sent Conn into the fourth quarter with a 7-4 lead when he came from behind the net and beat Reiley with just 17.3 remaining in the quarter.
The Camels then turned the game into a rout as John Lyons, Briggs Barton and Freedman scored during a 4:55 span of the fourth quarter that completed a seven-goal run and gave Conn a 10-4 lead with 5:57 left.
Eicher, Freedman and Lyons finished with three goals apiece while Tyler Corcoran had four assists.
"We really believe in ourselves," Eicher said. "At the beginning of the season we were a young team, but we grew as the season progressed and now we're starting to mature.
"When I was a freshman, we had great early season, but we peaked too soon. I think because we were such a young team at the start of the season, that helped us peak now."