JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Building on its identity as the Lacrosse Capital of the South, Jacksonville University men's lacrosse has released its 2018 schedule and lacrosse fans of all ages across the south have much to look forward to.
"I am pleased to announce we will spend much more time in the state of Florida than we did last year," stated Head Coach John Galloway. "We have seven home games that feature some of the best the nation has to offer. Our non-conference schedule features six teams that all rank higher in RPI than we do at the beginning of the season. This slate of games will challenge our program as we prepare for the SoCon slate."
Along with an exciting schedule featuring four teams that reached the NCAA Tournament and finished the season ranked in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) final Top-20 poll of 2017, the Dolphins also introduce the inaugural Jacksonville University: Lacrosse Capital of the South High School Lacrosse Series. Premier boys' lacrosse prep programs – both local and from national hotbed areas – will play at D.B. Milne Field before and after three selected JU games.
Jacksonville opens the 2018 schedule Feb. 4 when it welcomes Navy to D.B. Milne Field. Fans familiar with the upstate New York lacrosse community will relish the opportunity to watch Dolphin Head Coach John Galloway – a Syracuse, N.Y. native – square off with Navy Head Coach Rick Sowell, who grew up just a scenic two-hour drive south in Horseheads, N.Y., in Jacksonville's season-opener.
JU then heads out of town for a two-game road swing at Duke (Feb. 10) and Marquette (Feb. 17). Both the Blue Devils (No. 6) and Golden Eagles (No. 18) finished the season ranked in the USILA final poll behind closing out their seasons in the NCAA Tournament.
Returning to Duval for a pair of games at the end of February, the Dolphins play host to Detroit-Mercy under the lights Feb. 20 for their only night game of the season before welcoming NCAA Tournament runner-up Ohio State on Feb. 25.
In the debut of the JU: Lacrosse Capital of the South High School Lacrosse Series, Creekside and The Bolles School meet up at 10 am, while Ponte Vedra and IMG Academy face off at 3:30 pm following the Dolphins' 1 pm meeting with the Buckeyes.
A week later, Jacksonville heads north to Baltimore, Md. March 3 to face Vermont; an exact location in Charm City is yet to be determined.
Commenting on the Dolphins' non-conference matchups early in the season, Galloway added, "Navy, Duke, Ohio State, and Marquette are all Top-20 caliber programs. Vermont and Detroit have proven to be elite mid-majors that will provide us with battles in the beginning of the year."
Hoping to use the luck of the day to their advantage, the Dolphins open Southern Conference action home at D.B. Milne Field against Mercer March 17.
Jacksonville welcomes Bellarmine the follow Saturday, March 24 as the HS Lacrosse Series continues, with Oxbridge and Ponte Vedra facing off at 9 am. Jupiter and Nease then square up at 2:30 pm following the Dolphins noon meeting with the Knights.
Closing out March with a trip up I-95, Jacksonville heads to High Point March 31.
Air Force then ventures south for the first time since 2014, with an April 7 date in Duval. Following the Dolphins' noon meeting with the Falcons, Nease and Gonzaga (DC) take the field at 4 pm.
JU hits the road once more to face Richmond (April 14) and Furman (April 21) to cap the road schedule, before closing out the regular season back at home against VMI (April 28).
"The SoCon is ripe with competition. After making it to the SoCon Tournament for the first time in program history, we have set the bar higher for this season," continued Galloway. "That doesn't mean the competition has gotten any easier. Air Force and Richmond return at the top of the conference, while Furman returns all of its offensive firepower from last season. High Point, Mercer, and Bellarmine seem to get better every year. VMI is the team that has shown the greatest growth under their new head coach.
"These seven games will define our playoff opportunity in May. I know our guys will relish the opportunity to compete for a SoCon Championship."