JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They shoot, they score! For the first time in program history, the Jacksonville University women’s lacrosse team has won an NCAA Tournament game. The Dolphins not only won, the did it in decisive fashion with a 22-7 victory over the visiting Mercer Bears in the Opening Round of the NCAA Tournament, Tuesday afternoon at D.B. Milne Field. Jacksonville moves on to play at No. 8 Michigan in the First Round on Friday, May 10 at 4 p.m. EST.
“To create a legacy for our program; to have the selection show in our [Jacksonville Lacrosse Center] for the first time; to host an NCAA game and play in it … that’s a huge legacy and we’re so proud of the players, their effort, and their determination today,” commented head coach Mindy McCord following the win.
That legacy runs deep: the Dolphins head into Friday’s game at Michigan with a 17-3 overall record – matching the program’s single-season mark for wins set by the 2015 squad who finished the season 17-3.
Inspired by the run-and-gun style of play popularized by the 1989-90 Loyola Marymount men’s basketball team, the reigning ASUN Conference Champions opened the game with an eight-goal run and never looked back. The surprise pre-game visit of LMU and NBA legend Bo Kimble only fostered the Dolphins’ excitement for hosting their first-ever NCAA Tournament game.
Added McCord, “I’m thrilled! It’s so cool to get our first tournament win here. We love this field and University; to have an opportunity to have a game midweek before traveling. Any team that gets the chance to play in the postseason, it’s such a privilege, we’re so honored to be able to do it.”
Led by junior Alexis Deaken (5 goals) and leading scorer sophomore Jenny Kinsey (3 goals, 2 assists), the Dolphins never let up in the first half and with 16:20 remaining, extended their lead to 10, 13-3, to activate the running-clock rule.
Kinsey recorded all five of her points during the first half, while Deaken, a transfer from Siena College, recorded four of her five goals.
“Going into the postseason, we’ve had some amazing offensive output, especially in the first half. It starts with the draw, getting those possessions, and having the chemistry on attack to put the ball in the net,” noted McCord.
“Jenny and Alexis are really hitting their stride in the postseason. They’re getting some momentum and taking their game to the next level. When you have that kind of success, it’s hard not to believe in yourself more, and for the team, to be able to rely on you. Even if they aren’t on, the team has enough depth that other people who can score and that’s what I love about our offensive game.”
With a sizable 16-3 lead at halftime, the Dolphins continued to execute the fundamentals and finished a perfect 12-of-12 on clearing opportunities, along with an impressive 6-of-9 on free-position shots.
Of those eight-meter opportunities, Kinsey (2-for-2) and freshman Molly Brock (2-for-2) combined for over half of those goals to help the Dolphins solidify their rank in the top-five nationally with a .511 free-position percentage. Brock finished the day with four points (2g, 2a) and three draw controls.
Along with Brock, junior McKenna Rushford (1g, 7 DCs) and sophomore Megan Prescott (2g, 6 DCs, 3 CTs) dominated the draw game, as the trio combined for 16 of JU’s 20 restarts. Meanwhile, graduate student Hayley Ciklin (2g, 2a), redshirt-junior Erin McGuire (3a), sophomore Alyssa Arnold (2g, 1a), and senior Lillie Miller (1g, 1a) all notched multiple points on the day. Sophomores Lauren Phillips and Emma Wisdom, senior Jody Julmice, and junior Oliva Alvarez all contributed a goal as well.
“I love the team effort; we constantly say when you get your opportunity, you have to be able to go in and do your job and that’s what we saw today. When [bench players] get in, they have confidence and we try to keep their chemistry with the starters.”
With a depth between the pipes not seen in years past, the Dolphins had two huge performances from freshman Dayna Martinettoand redshirt-freshman Sharn Muffett. While Martinetto picked up a save and the win for her 17th on the year, it was Muffett who came up with three big saves on the doorstep to keep the Bears’ offense at bay.
“I was really proud of Sharn stepping in and having next-level confidence,” commented McCord. “She hasn’t play much all season, but she’s ready in the postseason. To be able to rely on her and have two solid goalies is right where we want to be.”
With the final tune-up in the books, the Dolphins look forward to the NCAA Tournament First Round matchup at No. 8 Michigan this Friday, May 10 at 4 p.m. EST.