JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The regular season comes to a close but only one team can move on into the Atlantic Sun Championship on Saturday when the Jacksonville University men’s lacrosse team faces Furman in a do-or-die matchup in Greenville, S.C. Face-off is set for 12 p.m. with a pay-per-view video stream available through the Furman website.
Jacksonville (3-8, 2-2 A-Sun) had a chance to clinch a spot in the A-Sun Championship last weekend, but a goal with 31 seconds left gave Richmond a 13-12 win and guaranteed the Spiders a spot in the tournament instead. The Dolphins are still in search of their first road victory of the season, and will need to make it happen this weekend. It’s not that JU hasn’t been close. Both the game last weekend and Jacksonville’s early-season matchup at High Point have been one-goal affairs, and the Dolphins would be in line to host the A-Sun Championship if both games had gone the other way.
The JU attack has been on full display since the team jumped back into conference play three weeks ago. In wins over VMI and Mercer plus the game at Richmond, Jacksonville has averaged more than 13 goals a game. At the heart of the offense has been Tom Moore. Moore has scored nine times in that span, including a hat trick last week. His goal total of 22 leads the team and his goals per game average of 2.00 is third in the A-Sun. As a team, JU’s shot percentage of .299 leads the conference.
The defense will ultimately determine how far this JU team can go. Pete DeLuca has been consistent throughout the season, but he’s been far less busy in the team’s wins than in their losses. Opponents have averaged 42.6 shots per game and 13.12 goals in victories over Jacksonville. In games that the Dolphins have won, those numbers have shrunk to 31.3 shots and 8.33 goals.
The matchup with Furman (1-11, 1-3 A-Sun) could prove to be much trickier than the team’s record indicates. Though the Paladins began the year 0-10, they recorded the first win in program history two weeks ago at VMI, then took Mercer to the wire on the road in a 9-8 defeat. Before that was a 13-10 loss to Richmond in which the team held the lead in the fourth quarter. All signs point to Furman as a team that struggled early but has begun to figure some things out. Leading the offense is junior midfielder Kenny Meinsen. With 20 goals and no assists on the season, it’s not much of a secret what Meinsen plans to do when he has possession. Freshman Graham Dabbs has 18 goals and is tied for the team lead with nine assists on the season.
What the Paladins don’t do well is defend. Giving up an average of 13.92 goals per game, Furman ranks last in Division I lacrosse in scoring defense. Along with that, the team is second-worst in the NCAA in caused turnovers per game (4.17). Jake Gavin has received the majority of the playing time in goal and has a 13.02 goals-against average and a .483 save percentage.
Should Jacksonville advance into the Atlantic Sun Championship, it would do so as either the No. 3 or 4 seed. If the Dolphins are able to secure the No. 3 seed, they’ll face High Point in the semifinals. If the No. 4 seed is in the cards, JU will have a rematch of its Senior Day against the hosts of the A-Sun Championship, the No. 1 seed Mercer.