JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – "The System" was on full display as Jacksonville University women's lacrosse used its trademark high-powered, quick-paced style of play to lead from opening draw to final whistle for its seventh-straight win in a 19-7 victory over Mercer, Friday evening at D.B. Milne Field.
Freshman Sarah Elms led a cadre of underclassmen who dominated the net as the Severna Park, Md. native became just the sixth Dolphin in program history to notch eight points in a game. Her six goals and two assists mark a career-high as she previously posted six points against Central Connecticut State (March 14), Dartmouth (March 29), and Old Dominion (April 6).
Sophomore Olivia Alvarez added four points (2 goals, 2 assists), classmate Kasey Stevens and freshman Jenny Kinsey recorded hat tricks, and freshman Alyssa Arnold dished out a trio of assists in the effort.
"Sometimes you rely on your younger players to pull you through and that was very much how we rolled today with nearly all of our points coming from freshmen and sophomores," stated Associate Head Coach Paul McCord following the game.
"Sarah Elms continues to show that she is one of the top attackers in the country. She was unstoppable in the first half and helped us build the early 10-goal lead."
Though the underclassmen dominated the offensive end of the field, it was graduate goalie Emily Poelma who sparked the Dolphins' quick transition game. Allowing just four goals in 45 minutes of action between the pipes, Poelma recorded nine saves – many at point-blank range right on the crease – to begin Jacksonville's speedy clearing game en route to an impressive 19 of 21 successful clear attempts in the first half alone. With the win, Poelma moves to 8-2 on the year.
Crediting Poelma's solid play in the crease, McCord added, "Poelma made some nice adjustments and was superior in cage today. She had a super practice yesterday and I think we are seeing a side of her that we have not seen all year. It takes a few games coming back to get back to your potential after an injury and she is right where we need her to be for the stretch run now."
The Dolphins (12-3) held the advantage over Mercer in shots (40-22), ground balls (30-14), and turnovers (14 to the Bears' 23). Though the Bears (5-10) won 10 of 14 draw controls in the opening 30 minutes, the Dolphins adjusted in the second and split the restarts, 7-6. JU also caused 19 of Mercer's 23 turnovers, with junior Erica Beal and sophomore Genie Santarpio recording three apiece.
Jacksonville opened up the game on a 5-0 run, beginning and ending with goals from Avarez with a true hat trick from Elms in between for good measure. Mercer broke into the game with a pair of goals less than a minute apart at the 13:27 and 12:44 marks to come within three, 5-2.
That was the closest the Dolphins would allow the Bears to come as JU finished the half on a 5-1 run, including back-to-back goals from Stevens for a 10-3 lead at halftime.
After recognizing and honoring several faculty and staff in attendance for Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day, the Dolphins came out of the intermission hot with a trio of goals in the first 3:24 – including solid sniping from Alvarez, who snagged an errant pass out of the air on a Mercer clear attempt and dished to junior Erin McGuire for an open-goal tally just 23 seconds into the second half. Elms followed up with back-to-back tallies to give JU the running clock at the 26:36 mark with a 13-3 lead.
A Mercer goal brought the game back within single digits, but Jacksonville extended its lead on a 6-0 run through the middle 16 minutes for a 19-4 advantage. With the final three goals of the game, the Bears brought it to 19-7 at the last horn.
McGuire finished the game with two points (1g, 1a), while sophomore Genie Santarpio (2g) and freshmen Megan Prescott (1g) and Emma Wisdom (1g) also found the back of the net for the Dolphins. Splitting time with Poelma in the crease, junior Kristen Brunoforte recorded a pair of saves in the final 15 minutes of action.
"Erica Beal and Genie Santarpio were our blue-collar grinders today. I can't say enough about how much Genie has grown this season and Beal gives us the ability to do a variety of things on defense. Having 14 players caused turnovers reminded us a lot of our team last year," lauded McCord.
"With 11 saves and 19 caused turnovers, we did a nice job of stifling a very potent Mercer attack. With 10 seniors, including former ASUN Player of the Year in [Lindsey Zeltwanger], holding them to no goals in the first 15 minutes and not allowing them runs until the final few minutes of the game was a great defensive accomplishment."
With two points each, Erica Coyne (2g), Meghan Segreti (2g), and Lindsey Zeltwanger (1g, 1a) led the offensive effort for Mercer. Splitting time between the pipes, Iseabal Cryne (9 saves) and Dylan Malamala (5 saves) combined for 14 saves, while Cryne endured the loss and fell to 4-8 on the year.
The Dolphins return to action this Sunday, April 22 when they play host to ASUN Conference foe Kennesaw State at noon.