April 12th, 2015
Knights offensive explosion leads to win over Jacksonville
Surpassing its play in a stunning and decisive upset win over nationally ranked Marquette seemed like a tall order for the Bellarmine University lacrosse team.
However, that's perhaps what the Knights achieved in the first half Saturday against Jacksonville at Owsley B. Frazier Stadium.
Competing with the Southern Conference Tournament on its mind, Bellarmine built a comfortable lead by halftime after piling up 11 goals en route to a convincing 17-9 triumph over the Dolphins.
Sophomore attack Austin Shanks amassed four goals and three assists, and sophomore attack Tucker Ciessau returned after missing one game to post two goals and two assists for Bellarmine (4-6 overall), which improved to 2-2 in the Southern Conference. The seven-team league's postseason tournament is comprised of four teams, and the Knights are tied for third place with High Point.
"I didn't even say it at all during the week; all the seniors just kept saying, 'It's a playoff game, it's a playoff game' because they know where we are," BU Coach Kevin Burns said. "As much as coaches try to focus on what's directly in front of us, those guys knew exactly what this game meant to us. They came out extra fired up for that."
Bellarmine accumulated 17 goals for the second time this season, first performing the feat against Virginia Military Institute on March 21. Prior to the explosion against VMI and then Jacksonville (4-6, 1-3), the Knights hadn't reached the 17-goal plateau since March of 2011.
Bellarmine was well on its way to an immense goal total after firing in six scores in the first period alone. Shanks found the net for the first time only 37 seconds into the game, and the Knights were off and running. Shanks found senior attack Dylan Gatt for a 2-0 lead and, following a goal by Jacksonville, Ciessau wrapped a pair of scores around one by senior midfielder Brogan Hill.
Chase McIntyre answered for the Dolphins, but, with the clocking wind down to end the first quarter, Ciessau charged at the net, drew the defense and flipped to Shanks, who tucked in a goal with three seconds left for a 6-2 advantage.
Despite allowing the first two goals of the second period, Bellarmine didn't let up and responded with five unanswered scores leading into the intermission. Senior midfielder Ryan Scinta got the Knights back rolling with a goal and then sophomore attack Jack Perkins and Shanks scored 24 seconds apart. Shanks wasn't finished, locating the net for the fourth time before freshman midfielder Will Roshkowski notched the first goal of his BU career with 1:33 left for a commanding 11-4 lead at the break.
"To be honest, that might have been the best half of lacrosse that we've played so far," Burns said. "As a team, across the board, we were firing on all cylinders."
That was especially true of Shanks. He recorded his sixth hat trick of the season, including one in each of the last three games. The reigning Offensive Player of the Week in the Southern Conference, Shanks has registered 28 goals this season and extended his scoring streak to 22 consecutive games.
"It's huge having a guy that's so consistent in level of play, and it's such a high level of play," Burns said.
Jacksonville never threatened Bellarmine in the second half. The Dolphins got within 13-8 early in the fourth quarter, but Gatt, senior defender Colin Hart and sophomore attack Graham Macko combined for three straight BU goals to seal a victory that was capped by freshman midfielder Eric Liddy's first collegiate goal.
"We're healthy now and we had been missing pieces here and there," Burns said. "This is kind of the first game where we're all back. Maybe not 100 percent, but we're all back and we were clicking."
Ciessau's pair of goals boosted his season total to 13, a total matched by Gatt. Perkins hiked his season output to 14 goals after putting away two Saturday. Sophomore attack Andrew Schoeneck added a goal and junior midfielder Taylor Stuart and junior attack Paul Garcia chipped in one assist apiece.
Hart racked up five ground balls, Stuart added four and freshman Connor Harryman won 15-of-25 face-offs. Freshman goalkeeper Drew Goethals corralled 10 saves. The Knights shut out Jacksonville over the final 11:55 of the second quarter, a timeframe where they increased their lead from two to seven.
"Defensively as a group we played amazingly well," Burns said. "(Jacksonville) started a couple people in a couple different spots that we weren't necessarily ready for, and they really handled it in stride.
"I can't say enough about Colin Hart. He's been just phenomenal. He should be in the talk for All-American — there's no doubt in my mind. Not only is he excellent on defense, he's such a threat off the wing and in transition."
Bellarmine will host Richmond at 1 p.m. (ET) next Saturday on Senior Day. Richmond and Mercer are tied atop the Southern Conference standings at 4-0.