JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After tying the game at six goals apiece heading into halftime, the Jacksonville University men's lacrosse team was unable to overcome a second-half rally by No. 2 Duke as the Dolphins fell, 15-8, Saturday afternoon at D.B. Milne Field.
"Today's game was a tale of two groups. For the first 40 minutes, we played with a sense of passion and belief. We proved in those 40 minutes that we can compete with anyone in the country. Unfortunately, to beat a team like Duke, you have to find a way to maintain that for the entire game," stated head coach John Galloway.
Facing a 5-2 deficit at the first quarter, Jacksonville rebounded and scored three straight goals – two unassisted from Evan Tyler (12:29, 2:20) and one from Bo BowHunter (6:58) – to lock the game up at 5-5.
Duke's Joey Manown found the back of the net with 59 seconds remaining, but it was senior Eric Applegate who buried the equalizer with 17 seconds before the half to send the Dolphins into halftime with a 6-6 tie. Applegate finished the day with a team-high four points (1 goal, 3 assists), while Tyler added a hat trick to power the Dolphins' offense.
Coming out of halftime, the visitors sparked a 3-0 run before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the Dolphins an extra-man opportunity with 12:21 on the clock. Jack Pucci took advantage of a slick pass from Jeremy Winston on the crease to bring the Dolphins within two and four minutes later, Alec Drosos fed Troy Hettinger a look from 15 yards out to make it a one-goal game, 9-8.
Added Galloway, "At 9-8, we began to show our fatigue and that led to a lack of execution. That is when a team of that caliber will make you pay. With all that said, there were a hell of a lot a positives to take from today. Our close defense of Jack Heed, Dixon Smith, and Jordan Young showed they can cover anyone in the country. I also thought Hunter Sells looked unfazed throughout the game. Our short sticks Jack Dolan, Troy Hettinger, Zack Deaken and Hayden La Vangie went toe to toe with Duke. That group is going to win us games this year."
Smith led the Dolphins' defense with three ground balls and two caused turnovers, while La Vangie caused a team-high three turnovers, stifling several of Duke's offensive looks.
Joe Robertson found Reilly Walsh with 4:24 remaining in the third to spark a 6-0 decisive run by the Blue Devils to put the game out of reach.
Both teams were evenly matched in shots as the Blue Devils held a slight 33-27 advantage, though the Dolphins had three less turnovers than Duke (22-19). The deciding factor was at the X, as Duke won 18-25 face offs.
"My favorite part about his group is that we got better today," added Galloway. "On Monday, we are going back to that field with one goal in mind: take the next step forward as we prepare for another top-20 matchup with Marquette in our house Friday night."
The Dolphins welcome Marquette to D.B. Milne Field next Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.