(Photo Courtesy of Denver Athletics)
We can officially say it. Lacrosse is back, Y’all!
It was a much slower first weekend of action than usual with only two games on the docket, but college lacrosse officially returned on Saturday. Bellarmine took down Mercer on in the first game of the season and just a few hours later we saw Denver best Utah.
Denver 9, Utah 8
The Denver Pioneers overcame missing 12 players, including Schuyler Blair, Alex Simmons, and Colin Squires, struggling heavily on the power play (1-for-8), and going 8-for-20 at the faceoff dot, to get hot in the second half and put away the visiting Utah Utes, 9-8, in their home opener.
It was a sleepy first half in Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. A Jordan Hyde goal put Utah up 1-0 at the end of the first. While Denver did get a goal from Ethan Walker early in the second, Hyde got his second just minutes later and Sammy Cabere converted in transition late in the half to put Utah up 3-1 at the half.
Despite a slow first half, both teams really started to find their footing in the third quarter. And while the two sides traded goals midway through the quarter, it’s how Denver bookended the third that made the difference. Jack Hannah got the second half started with two straight to tie things up early in the third and Ethan Walker ended the third with two straight to put Pioneers up 6-5, giving them their first lead of the game heading into the final period.
A JJ Sillstrop behind-the-back goal in side proved to be the game winner for the Pioneers, capping off a 3-1 Denver run early in the fourth. Utah was able to get two goals late in the game, but Denver won the ensuing faceoff and held on for the victory.
Ethan Walker led Denver with four points (3G/1A). Jackson Hannah also had three points (2G/1A) in the contest while Jackson Morrill had one goals and two assists in his Pioneers debut.
Utah was led by Tyler Bradbury with five points (3G/2A). Cole Brams went 12-for-20 at the faceoff dot and Zack Johns recorded 16 saves.
Bellarmine 9, Mercer 7
In what was the first game of the college lacrosse season, the Bellarmine Knights were able to lean on a second half spark to lead them to victory over the Mercer Bears, which marks the Knights’ first season-opening win since 2016.
After being blanked in the second quarter and finding themselves down 4-2 entering heading into halftime and seemingly having no clear advantage anywhere, especially at the faceoff dot where Mercer’s Ashton Wood ended the day going 18-for-19, Bellarmine was able to find their feet in the third quarter and catch some fire. A three-goal Knights run, which included two from Jesse Roth, helped push Bellarmine out to a 6-4 lead with 3:18 in the third.
Mercer answered with two straight from Collin Stewart and Patrick Marks late in the third to tie things up at 6-6 heading into the final period. However, Bellarmine got two quick goals early in the fourth from Eric Rubak and Benny O’Rouk to put the back ahead. A Brayden Brown goal with 3:55 in the game sealed the deal for the Knights.
LSM Eric Rubak looked like the best player on the field for Bellarmine most of the contest, ending the game with two goals, six ground balls, and three caused turnovers. Jesse Roth (2G), Brayden Brown (1G/1A), and Kyle Playsted (1G/1A) also tallied two points each.
In addition to Wood’s dominance at the faceoff dot, he was one of five for Mercer who found the back of the net once. Collin Stewart led Mercer and the game with four points (2G/2A).
Ian Reilly made 10 saves with a .588% save percentage for Bellarmine and Colin Kelley made six saves with a 40% save percentage.
Bellarmine host Utah next Saturday while Mercer host DII Lenoir-Rhyne.