As Mike Olentine took the field for the final game of his career with the Dartmouth College men’s lacrosse program, he was focused on team goals.
“Before the game, the seniors came together as a group,” said Olentine, a former Princeton High football and lax star reflecting on Dartmouth’s finale against Holy Cross on April 29.
“We knew we were going to play most of the game and we really wanted to get a win.”
But within a 1:28 span of the first quarter, Olentine scored three goals and realized that he was in a zone.
“I was moving a lot off the ball and my teammates were finding me,” said the wiry 5’11, 160-pound attackman whose previous single-game high was three goals. “My shooting hasn’t been the greatest this spring but the shots were falling.”
By halftime, Olentine had five goals and he wasn’t about to stop firing away.
“I knew I was scoring a lot of goals,” said Olentine.
“Holy Cross had some good players so I knew I had to keep scoring goals to help us win.”
In the fourth quarter, Olentine realized he had the chance to make some history.
“When I had eight there was a timeout and someone whispered to me that I was one away from the school record,” recalled Olentine. “I kept scoring.”
Olentine ended up adding two more tallies in the last 3:36 of regulation to set a program record of 10 goals and while he was thrilled to hit double figures, the deeper satisfaction came from the fact that Dartmouth prevailed 17-12.
“It was definitely a great end to a career without any regrets; I am ready to move on,” said Olentine.
“The most fun thing about the experience was having happy teammates going out with a win and going out with my classmates that way.”
Coming into his senior year, Olentine knew that he had to use his experience to help the team.
“Going through the fall and heading into the preseason, I realized that I was one of the only players who had a lot of game experience,” said Olentine.
“I was going to play on an attack line with two freshmen and we had a lot of freshmen and sophomores in the midfield. I wanted to be more of a vocal leader and lead on the field. In the past, I was more focused on my game.”
Dartmouth entered the spring with a lot of confidence despite its group of callow players.
“I think even though we had a fairly young team, we had high expectations,” said Olentine.
“We had a lot of hope going into the season. We wanted to qualify for the Ivy League tournament and then win two games.”
Starting the season with an 18-5 loss to North Carolina got Dartmouth headed in the wrong direction.
“I think it was tough going down to North Carolina, they had two games under their belt and they were a strong team,” said Olentine.
“We had some injuries in the preseason which held us back. We didn’t find our groove early on.”
After defeating Sacred Heart 14-10 on March 1, the Big Green lost eight straight, including all six of its Ivy contests.
“Penn State was really strong, they had the third top scorer in the country and one of our defensive guys held him down; we were in that game almost the whole way,” said Olentine, reflecting on the 10-6 defeat to the Nittany Lions on March 18 which started the losing streak.
“We had tough games against Harvard and Cornell; we didn’t play a full 60 minutes.”
Dartmouth did play a full 60 minutes in a 13-10 defeat at Princeton on April 12, pushing the Tigers to the final whistle.
“I was really looking forward to going home; it is fun playing against Princeton,” said Olentine, who scored three goals in the 2013 meeting between the rivals as Dartmouth pulled off a 10-9 upset.
“I watched them a lot when I was a kid. They had a really strong offensive team and our defense had a solid game. We were trading goals with them. I had a goal; that was great.”
The Big Green lost 9-3 to Penn and 12-8 to Brown as they played out the string before the ending the season against Holy Cross.
“Once we were mathematically eliminated from the Ivy League tournament, it was about trying to build going into the next season and sending the seniors out on a high,” said Olentine, who was Dartmouth’s top scorer this season with 28 points on 21 goals and seven assists and ended up with 58 points in his career as he totaled 43 goals and 15 assists.
For Olentine, his Dartmouth experience has helped him be a high achiever on and off the field.
“I have enjoyed every part of my four years, I made best friends that I will have for the rest of my life,” said Olentine, who was named to the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (NEILA) Senior Scholar Academic All-Region Team and will be working as a trader for the Gelber Group in Chicago after graduation.
“Playing D-1 sports is like taking a couple of extra courses; you have something to do everyday. It helped me develop a work ethic, manage my time, and I met some wonderful people along the way.”