The Mercyhurst men’s lacrosse team came out of the gates this weekend in the best way, scoring seven of the game’s first nine goals en route to a 19-11 victory over the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears on March 30 in Philippi, W.V.
Now 3-2 in regular-season neutral-site games since joining the G-MAC in 2017, the Lakers have started 7-2 or better in eight of the last 10 seasons after starting 6-3 in 2018. The Lakers raced out to a 7-2 lead (which included two straight three-goal runs) after the Lakers’ Devin Pipher found Ben Smith-Wilcox 27 seconds for his 20th of the season.
“We really capitalized early in transition and won the majority of ground balls to start the game, which set the tone for the rest of the game,” the Lakers’ Caleb Kueber said. “Our offense was able to find the back of the net early, which gave us a nice confident lead.”
Following this, the Bears’ Anthony Fraga evened it at 5:39 with his sixth after Noah Johnson (3-6, 13.50) saved Smith-Wilcox shorthanded. But the Lakers’ Brandon May picked up the grounder on the ensuing draw, allowing for a clear and a tally from teammate Nathan Grenon 40 seconds later, his first of four on the day and 17th of the season.
Kueber then found his first two of the game 39 seconds apart off of a respective grounder and draw, but the Bears’ Evan Torris coaxed Grenon into the second of four turnovers for the Lakers in the first half, allowing the Bears’ Joe Buduo a score. But after the Bears’ Connor Kroll caused a turnover on Zach Lorenz, Laker goalie Hunter Emerson (6-2, 9.96) stopped the Bears’ Quinn Kuhn, who passed it to teammate Tommy Angelicola for the score.
“We knew coming into the game that if we wanted to get the win we would have to contain their offense to limited opportunities and force them to take outside shots,” Kueber said. “Hunter was excellent for us in net coming up with the big saves right when we needed them, never letting them get on a run or never letting their offense get going.”
Kueber then found Pipher 13 seconds after he picked up the faceoff grounder before teammate Dom Perna repeated the feat and found Grenon at 11:43 for a Laker score. The Bears (3-7) responded to a 7-2 first-quarter run opening the second, as Ben Austin found his tenth at 1:32 off a clear. However, the Lakers’ Nicholas Bartone coaxed Torris into a turnover and restored the five-goal advantage at 3:58 with his sixth.
Kueber and Pipher went back to work for the Lakers and combined again at 5:55, but Dylan Stape coaxed Perna into a giveaway before the Bears’ Eric Dickinson found his 29th of the season at 8:57. To this, Grenon gave a Laker response 22 seconds later, and after a timeout, teammate Smith-Wilcox found him at 9:58 to extend the lead to seven.
But the Lakers’ Pipher was booked for an illegal procedure at 11:10, allowing Edward Tate to find Buduo on the power-play. Sam Crusha responded at 3:50 of the third with his 15th, then Cameron Sechler closed the gap to six at 5:49 with his first goal as a Bear. The Lakers’ Kueber answered back at 7:15, while Austin was booked for a cross-check at the same timestamp, allowing Kuhn his 15th at 9:25 for a shorthanded goal allowed by the Lakers.
The Bears’ Fraga was called for an unforced turnover less than 90 seconds later, allowing Smith-Wilcox to capitalize at 11:18 and Dan Kritkausky his fourth 42 seconds later. Dickinson and Fraga would respond 19 seconds apart for the Bears, before Pipher responded with 15 seconds left in the third and Grenon found Crusha 2:05 into the fourth for Laker tallies.
Buduo had his shot blocked with 6:27 left in regulation, then Angelicola and Dickinson exchanged ground balls before the Bears’ leading scorer raised his total to 32 just 1:32 apart, third in the South Atlantic. Then Pipher and Grenon combined again, and Smith-Wilcox ended the scoring at 12:49 to close out their sixth straight win.
“I think what we can take out of this game is our ability to stay composed for a full 60 minutes and play as a unit feeding off each other at both ends of the field,” Kueber said.
After this weekend, the No. 13 Lakers are ready for Seton Hill. Head Coach Chris Ryan is even more so, as the team prepares for battle against No. 11 ranked Seton Hill University.
For April 6 against Seton Hill (6-3, 1-0), gametime is 1 p.m. on enemy turf. “It’s a big game for us this weekend and the guys are pumped,” Kueber said.