SAVANNAH, Ga. – The Jacksonville University men’s lacrosse team (2-1) battled Mercer (1-3) every step of the way on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Savannah, Ga. The back-and-forth affair culminated in overtime where an Evan Tyler goal sent the Dolphins home winners for the second time in as many non-conference tilts with SoCon opponents.
“Tonight, was an old school, old fashioned rock fight between two teams who just wanted to find a way to play a game,” men’s lacrosse head coach John Galloway said. “Mercer came in motivated and made us work for every opportunity we had. I am so proud of the resiliency of our group when things weren’t going our way. In the past, I think we fail to find a way to finish this one off. I am proud of our leadership in the upper class to refusal to leave with a loss.”
Matt Stagnitta scored three goals and handed out three assists to contribute a team-high six points while Evan Tyler collected a season-high four goals, including the game winner in overtime. Five other Dolphins scored once and three added assists. In total, eight Jacksonville players secured points on Saturday night, including Conor Shears who picked up a couple assists, three ground balls and caused three turnovers. Nathan Kapp picked up five ground balls and won 10 faceoffs.
Between the pipes Adam Baker had to match Mercer’s Colin Kelley, shot-for-shot. Baker made a career-high 12 saves across 62 minutes and 38 seconds of action, earning his second win of the season. He faced a season-high 42 shots.
“Troy Hettinger took every shift for us in overtime, and gutted out some big stops,” Galloway continued. “Adam Baker just kept fighting, with two huge saves in the overtime. Matt Stagnitta showed us flashes of special lacrosse tonight that will be huge for his momentum going forward. With all that said, at the end of the day the ball was in the stick of the man (Tyler) who has been through the most during his time at JU, and he willed us to a victory. We now have to lick our wounds, learn from our mistakes, and come back hungrier than ever before for Navy week.”
The two sides combined for six goals in the first quarter with JU jumping out to a 4-2 lead. Tom Heed canned his first of the season to get the scoring started. Tyler scored the next two for JU and Troy Hettinger deposited his fourth of the year with 20 seconds to play in the quarter to push his team ahead 4-2. Stagnitta assisted both of Tyler’s goals in that opening frame.
The two sides traded scores in the second quarter. Tucker Garrity canned his lone score off Stagnitta’s third assist and Mercer later answered to leave Jacksonville with a 5-3 lead at halftime.
The scoring barrage began again in the third quarter. The two sides traded scores early, but Mercer followed with four-straight to move ahead 8-7 after trailing 6-4. Luke Robinson stopped the bleeding with a score at the 4:29 mark, igniting a 4-0 JU run that spilled over into the fourth quarter. Tyler’s seventh score of the season off an assist from Dolan gave JU a 10-8 lead with 14:25 to play in the game. Mercer scored three in-a-row to move ahead 11-10 with 4:59 to go.
Stagnitta scored to knot the score at 11 with just 1:05 to play in the game. Adam Baker stood on his head, making several key saves down the stretch to send this one to overtime. In fact, Jack Dolan had a walk-off chance as the fourth quarter clock wound down, but Mercer’s Kelley was up to the task, making one of his 17 saves.
Overtime was equally as nerve-wracking as the clock wore on deep into the period. Both defenses and both goalkeepers were superb, but it was Evan Tyler who seized the moment at hand and did what veterans do – make plays. He scored his eighth goal of the season. Tyler now has 78 goals in his career, one shy of matching T.J. Kenary’s all-time record of 79 set from 2010-13.
Next up for Jacksonville will be a trip to Annapolis, Md. for a date with Navy. That matchup is set to get started at Noon.