JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With one quarter to play in the final home game of the season, the Jacksonville University men’s lacrosse team finally found the spark it needed on Saturday against Mercer. The timing couldn’t have been better. Going into the fourth quarter trailing, 10-7, the Dolphins swarmed the field in the closing 15 minutes, scoring seven goals, winning the majority of face-offs and forcing three Mercer turnovers. The end result was a come-from-behind 14-12 victory that tied Jacksonville (3-7, 2-1 Atlantic Sun) and Mercer (6-5, 3-1 A-Sun) in the loss column in the conference standings. With the win, JU holds the edge in seeding over the Bears for the conference tournament in three weeks’ time if the Dolphins can win out.
The first quarter provided a blueprint for the tough road that lay ahead of Jacksonville, as the Dolphins went ahead three times in the quarter, and Mercer answered back on each goal. In his final home game, senior David Goldman opened the scoring with an assist from Rob Moore for a 1-0 lead at the 11:47 mark of the first. Later, it was Tom Moore with his first goal of the day, an unassisted effort, and Dakota Rohlin – fresh off his A-Sun Offensive Player of the Week award – adding one inside the final two minutes. Nevertheless, when Cole Branch took a feed from Timmy Geran and scored with 1:08 to go, the score was knotted at 3-3.
Things began to turn south for JU in the second quarter. Mercer began with three straight goals to take a 6-3 edge, and there were less than three minutes remaining in the quarter before Duncan Clancy could snap the run with an unassisted goal that momentarily cut the Bear lead to 6-4. But inside the final two minutes of the half, Mercer added on a pair of goals and led, 8-4, at the halftime break.
A fired-up Jacksonville squad emerged early in the second half, reeling off three straight goals from Clancy, Goldman and Rob Moore to draw within one at 8-7 with just over six minutes gone in the quarter. At that point, all the momentum was with the Dolphins, but Mercer managed to fend off the JU push with scores from Branch and Zack Ward to take a 10-7 lead into the final quarter.
No doubt the Bears were hungry for a knockout punch against the Dolphins, but JU and the Moore brothers in particular were undeterred. Rob Moore started the quarter by going high to beat Mercer keeper Mike Nugent over his right shoulder, making it 10-8. Moments later, Tom Moore beat Nugent after taking a pass from Rohlin.
Back in it with those two goals, Jacksonville was on the wrong side of a questionable decision on the ensuing face-off. A wild scramble ended with a one-minute penalty on Rob Moore and the Bears took advantage of the man-up opportunity with Branch flicking in his fifth goal of the game off a feed from Chris Baxa to regain a two-goal advantage with 12:57 to play. But that’s when Jacksonville stepped on the gas.
Rohlin brought the Dolphins a little closer with 11:39 to play after Clancy delivered him his team-leading 11th assist of the season. Finally, with 9:24 to play, Jacksonville was back level for the first time in more than 30 minutes of game action as Tom Moore cashed in a man-up goal from Rohlin following a slashing call on Mercer defender Colin Massa.
Tom Moore and Rohlin combined again with 7:20 to play to put Jacksonville on top, and when Clancy found the back of the net with 6:02 to play, the Dolphins had their largest lead of the game. The final push from Mercer came swiftly. Winning the face-off, the Bears moved upfield and scored with just less than five minutes remaining to make it 13-12.
The game still hung in the balance on the next face-off, but Jet Harding was able to secure possession for the Dolphins and after a minute of possession, the Bears were flagged for a one-minute penalty. Tom Moore’s fourth goal of the fourth quarter (with Rohlin once again assisting) gave the Dolphins the 14-12 lead. Jacksonville then won another face-off on a Mercer violation and milked the clock down to nearly a minute before relinquishing possession. The Bears had to move quickly in order to have any kind of chance, but Joey Pfister squashed their hopes with a caused turnover and ground ball, and the Dolphins bled the clock out to get the important conference win.
“I’m really proud of these guys and how hard they worked throughout the game,” said Head Coach Guy Van Arsdale at the end of the afternoon. “I don’t think their effort changed whether we were down or up, we just kept working and working. We had great opportunities in the first half and just didn’t hit our shots, but we made some adjustments and changed some of the ways we attacked them. Having Clancy, Moore and Moore on the attack for the first time this year, all three healthy and playing together, makes us a much different team offensively.”
Five players scored at least two goals on the afternoon for JU, with Tom Moore accounting for five of them. Clancy had a hat trick to go with an assist, and Rohlin led the Dolphins with six points on two goals and four helpers. Austin Curtis paced the defense with three caused turnovers and three ground balls.
On Senior Day for seven members of the squad, Peter DeLuca earned the win in goal with six saves and four ground balls. It was also the final home game for Clancy, Goldman, Tyler Black, Will Crenshaw, Mike McCredie and JP Ricker.
Jacksonville is on the road for the final two regular season games of the season. First up is a matchup with the Richmond Spiders on April 20 at 12:30 p.m.