(Photo Courtesy of Bellarmine Athletics)
The No. 5 seed Bellarmine Knights defeated the No. 4 seed Mercer Bears 14-13 on Tuesday afternoon in the ASUN quarterfinals. The win is another milestone for the Knights amidst a record-breaking season as it marked the program’s first postseason win.
Bellarmine (11-5, 5-4 ASUN) moves to play No. 1 seed Utah (10-4, 9-0 ASUN) in the conference semifinals on Friday.
Benny O’Rourk (2G/3A) scored the eventual game-winner with 5:57 left in the contest and JC Higginbotham (12 saves, 48%) made the game-securing save in the dying seconds, but the story of the day for the Knights was Grant Guthrie’s play at the faceoff dot.
The freshman went 14-for-29 (48%) against Mercer’s Ashton Wood (15-for-29, 52%). In the regular season meeting, Wood mopped the floor against the Knights as he went 19-for-30 (63%).
Tasked with guarding the ASUN Player of The Year, Mercer’s Wesley Chairs held Bellarmine’s Kyle Playsted (1G/2A) to his second-lowest point output against an ASUN team this season. Playsted was held scoreless and to an 0-for-2 shooting mark in the second half of play. Despite Playsted being slowed down, the rest of Bellarmine’s offense was able to fill in and flourish.
Boasting the 18th best scoring offense (13.67 goals per game) in DI coming into the postseason, the Knights were able to take advantage and take control with two sizable runs that made the difference on Tuesday afternoon. Bellarmine ended the first half of play on a three-goal run that was capped by two scores in the final 51 seconds of the second quarter to make it a 9-9 game at the break. Early in the third, Jesse Roth dodged down the left alley and put one home to extend the Bellarmine run to four goals and give the Knights their first lead (10-9) since the first quarter.
A man-up score from Carl Klepper followed by a Matt O’Connor score in the final 20 seconds of the frame pulled Mercer ahead 12-11 entering the fourth. Bellarmine, however, would once again be able to pull together a run with Christian DellaRocco, John Alie, and Benny O’Rourk all finding the back of the net within an eight-minute span to make it a 14-12 game in the Knights’ favor.
On Mercer’s next possession, Kyle Cox dodged on a short-stick from behind the cage, got separation, and put one home to make it a one-goal (14-13) game with 4:48 to go. Mercer got three shots off in those final minutes as they attempted to tie things up but none would go. Two were stopped by JC Higginbotham, including a look from up top via Michael Frederick with 12 seconds left.
Mercer (6-10, 5-4 ASUN) was led in the contest by Carl Klepper with six points off three goals and three assists. Matt O’Connor has four goals on the day. Colin Kelley made seven saves in cage.
Robert Morris Upsets Jacksonville
No. 6 seed Robert Morris pulled off the upset on their home field on Tuesday evening, knocking off No. 3 seed Jacksonville in a 9-8 defensive bout.
Robert Morris (8-7, 4-5 ASUN) will move to face No. 2 seed Air Force (10-5, 7-2 ASUN) in the semifinals on Friday.
The defending champions entered the postseason as the lowest seed in the ASUN tournament but held home field advantage as the host school. The Colonials looked at home, indeed, on Tuesday afternoon as they pulled off the first upset of the postseason in a contest where they led for 47 minutes of action.
Colin Lidstone had two goals while Taggart Clark had five points off one goal and four assists. The pair led the way for the Colonials offense in the victory.
Lidstone’s scores bookended Robert Morris’ four-goal in the first quarter that pulled them ahead 4-1 with 9:00 left in that opening frame. It would be the Colonials’ largest run of the day and mark one of two instances when they led by four. The second of those instances came in the second half as Brenden Cina, Taggart Clark, and Eric Swaggerty put home consecutive goals from the 3:35 mark to the third through the 8:13 mark in the fourth to make it a 9-5 game.
Jacksonville answered each of those big Robert Morris runs with a three-goal run of their own. In the first half, the Dolphins saw Max Waldbaum, Brandon Galloway, and Luke Robinson score consecutively from late in the first through the middle portion of the second to make to knot things up at 4-4. In the second half, however, it was a more desperate Dolphins squad trying to get back into the groove after a nearly 20-minute dry spell.
Late in the fourth quarter, Brandon Galloway scored two in a row and Ethan LaMond followed with one of his own. LaMond’s score came at the 2:50 mark and made it a one-goal game. However, it would be the last goal of the day as the Dolphins wouldn’t get another shot off before the buzzer sounded.
Nate Randall made 10 saves with a 55.6% save percentage to anchor a Robert Morris defense that held Jacksonville to its lowest goal total since their season-opening loss to Johns Hopkins (12-7). Will Johansen did wonders as a short-stick defender, causing three turnovers and grabbing three ground balls.
The Colonials held the Dolphins off the board for nearly 12 minutes on two separate occasions; once during the first quarter and secondly from the middle of the second through the middle of the third. Jacksonville did not score from the 8:22 mark of the third through the 4:23 mark of the fourth when its late-game comeback effort began.
Steven Dellemonache went 12-for-21 (57%) at the dot for Robert Morris against Jacksonville’s Nathan Kapp (9-for-21, 42%). It marked Kapp’s worst game since February.
Jacksonville (12-4, 7-2 ASUN) was led on Tuesday by Brandon Galloway with four goals. Luke Millican made 11 saves with a 55% save percentage.