JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville University men’s lacrosse team (7-5, 4-1 SoCon) secured its place in the SoCon Tournament on Saturday afternoon in dramatic fashion with a come-from-behind victory over Bellarmine (4-10, 1-4), 8-7, thanks to some late heroics from Jack Dolan and Matt Stagnitta.
Jacksonville has locked itself into a top three seed in the SoCon Tournament (May 5-7) in Richmond. The Dolphins will matchup with High Point on the road next weekend (May 1) to close out the regular season with the regular season title still in play, pending results of the Richmond/Mercer game on Sunday (Apr. 25).
Dolan and Stagnitta provided the fireworks on Saturday, combining for five goals and an assist. Dolan collected his fourth hat trick of the season and extended one of the nation’s longest point-streaks to 34 games. His 2021 point-total has now matched his jersey number, 42, on the strength of 24 goals and 18 assists. Stagnitta scored twice, including the game-winner, giving him 27 goals for the season and his sixth-straight multi-goal game.
Jacob Greiner, Ibrahim Pio and Jeremy Winston contributed the remaining goals with assists coming from Tucker Garrity, Zack Deaken and Jake Antonucci. Nathan Kapp of 16-19 in the faceoff circle and collected eight ground balls. Dolan, Jack Heed, Troy Hettinger, Colin Hinton and Jordan Young all had two ground balls while Hinton caused three turnovers. Jason Yoquinto made eight saves in goal.
“What a wild way to wrap up our 2021 home slate,” head coach John Galloway said. “Nothing came easy today, and Bellarmine challenged us in every area of the game to find an answer. Despite the frustration, our guys maintained their poise and made the plays needed to come out on top at the end. We never had the lead until the last goal, but it was our emotional maturity that allowed us to find a way.”
The first quarter saw the visiting Bellarmine side jump ahead 4-1 with the lone JU score coming from Greiner. The Knights were looking to reverse the 19-8 result in JU’s favor to begin the 2021 season. The quarter was capped by a hard-luck own-goal that went Bellarmine’s way. Jacksonville began chipping away in the second.
Winston and Pio scored, and the defense did its part by locking down and shutting Bellarmine out in the second quarter. The Knights carried a 4-3 advantage into the locker rooms.
Bellarmine scored first in the second half but the Dolphins responded late. The Dolphins trailed 5-3, with less than 30 second to play in the third quarter when the fireworks ignited. It all started with the defense who forced a turnover. Deaken broke through the Bellarmine ride and found a running Stagnitta who buried his first tally of the day with just 19 seconds left in the quarter. Jacksonville won the ensuing faceoff, Dolan picked up the ground ball, went straight to the cage, and canned his first of the game to knot the score, 5-5, with less than five seconds remaining in the third.
The two sides traded goals early in the fourth. Bellarmine scored first, Dolan matched at the 9:46 mark and the Knights moved back ahead, 7-6, with 8:23 to go. The clocked dipped below six minutes to play with the Dolphins still trailing but another strong transition effort allowed Garrity to find Dolan for his third and final score of the afternoon, tying the game at seven. With just under two minutes to play, Dolan battled through contact inside and flipped a pass over his shoulder to Stagnitta who fired home the eventual game winner with just 1:39 to play. The defense made a play on the doorstep on the other end to secure the victory.
“When we needed it, our upperclassmen stepped up,” Galloway concluded. “Jack Dolan, Jason Yoquinto, Matt Stagnitta and Colin Hinton each made a play in the last five minutes to get us over the hump. Credit Bellarmine for a fantastic game plan. They outcoached me, but our players made the moments when we needed. I’m really proud of our locker room and can’t wait to get back to work Monday.”
The regular season finale High Point will get started next Saturday at 12 p.m. The SoCon Tournament gets underway at Robins Stadium in Richmond on Thursday, May 5 and will conclude with the championship match on Friday, May 7.