Women’s lacrosse returns home to face #13 Vanderbilt on Saturday
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Coming off two wins in its past three games, the JU women’s lacrosse team will look to sustain momentum when it hosts No. 13 Vanderbilt on Saturday in a rare 11:30 a.m. start at D.B. Milne Field.

JU (3-2) is coming off a two-game split on a West Coast road trip, defeating Fresno State before falling to Oregon. The Dolphins will face a Vanderbilt squad that is 3-2 after defeating Cincinnati, 17-3, in its last game. The matchup between the Dolphins and Commodores will mark the first all-time meeting between the schools.

The Dolphins will be facing its highest-ranked opponent all season in the non-conference contest. JU already has played a Florida Gators squad ranked 17th nationally by the IWLCA poll at the time.

Head coach Mindy McCord’s team can also claim a win over a ranked opponent this season: JU beat Denver last month when the Pioneers were ranked 20th by Inside Lacrosse’s deBeer women’s media poll.

“We’re excited to face another high-quality opponent,” McCord said. “Playing another ranked team will be a good test for us before we start our conference schedule.”

Freshman Morgan Derner and sophomore Ellyn Spangenberg have keyed JU’s offensive production with each scoring eight goals.

Derner is coming off a career-high four-goal performance versus Oregon. The attacker already has registered three multi-goal games in her first five contests. Derner has two of JU’s three total game-winning goals and has also tallied two-goal games against Cincinnati and Denver, respectively.

“It’s exciting for us to play nationally ranked teams to get Jacksonville’s name out there and it’s a great experience for the younger players,” Derner said. “We look forward to the challenge and we know we’re going to have to work very hard.”

Spangenberg continued her hot start with her first hat trick of the season, torching Fresno State for three goals and an assist. The midfielder leads JU with 11 points and a .727 shooting percentage.

Attacker Amanda Hurley emerged from a quiet start with a five-goal effort against Fresno State and will look to continue that clutch shooting against a Vanderbilt squad that has held opponents to just 8.4 goals per game.

Hurley entered 2011 as JU’s leading returning scorer after tallying 29 goals as a freshman in 2010. Her breakout effort against the Bulldogs tied her career high for goals in a single game and required just six shots.

JU will try and duplicate the Fresno State effort as it looks to post its’ first-ever win over a team ranked in the top-20 by the IWLCA. Against the Bulldogs, the Dolphins dominated possession with a 36-14 edge in shots while also establishing a 22-5 advantage in draw controls. That advantage put JU at a nearly 80 percent winning percentage off draw controls. JU also was successful on 10-of-11 clears while forcing nine failed clears for Fresno State.

Vanderbilt could prove to be a more difficult challenge. Junior Courtney Kirk already registered nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points, averaging four points per game to key the Commodores attacking unit.

Emily Franke scored twice versus Cincinnati and enters the JU contest with a team-leading 10 goals. The senior midfielder is one of the key parts to a Vanderbilt offense averaging 14.2 goals per game.

Fans who cannot make it out to the field can watch the action online at ASun.TV.

- By Brian Bohl