The road to Bexley was a rough one.
The John Carroll University men’s lacrosse team faced adversity, injuries and 15 formidable opponents in a 10-week quest to secure its second consecutive berth in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament.
The journey ended on Saturday evening with an 11-2 victory over Muskingum University at Don Shula Stadium, but the mission is not over. The Blue Streaks must first defeat Capital University in Bexley, Ohio on Wednesday, April 29 and either Otterbein University of Baldwin Wallace University on Saturday, May 2 to achieve JCU’s primary goal: an OAC Championship.
If the final game of the regular season is any indication, the Blue and Gold are well-prepared for the rigors of the postseason. In a physical battle against the feisty Fighting Muskies, the Blue Streaks controlled the tempo to finish with a 9-6 mark in regular season play.
From start to finish, JCU dominated the Fighting Muskies in nearly every facet of the game. The scoreboard failed to tell the full story, but all in attendance witnessed a concentrated, all-around effort by the Blue and Gold.
Heading into halftime, JCU held a 6-0 lead, thanks to freshman Collin Rice’s hat trick, sophomore Declan O’Grady’s pair of tallies and junior Jack MacLean’s wicked goal in the second. During the first 30 minutes of play, Muskingum managed just two shots on goal to JCU’s 11.
The second half saw the same results, except with more physical plays. Muskingum committed eight penalties, including a string of six in a row, while JCU was called for five. Both teams converted on man-up opportunities, as the Blue Streaks scored four tallies and the Fighting Muskies scored both of their goals with man-advantages.
When the dust settled, JCU emerged with an 11-2 victory. An impressive 11 Blue Streaks recorded a goal or an assist in the team’s regular season finale.
Head coach Brian Small touched on just how much the win meant for JCU heading into the OAC Tournament saying, “Saturday’s win was huge. The guys really banded together. As the fans saw, there were some shots taken out there, and our guys had each other’s backs.”
Small continued, “It was a real team win: the young guys got lots of playing time and really stepped up. The veteran guys did well. Everyone helped out to get the win. It’s always nice to win the last game, especially at home, and end the regular season on a positive note.”
A similar team effort will be necessary if the Blue Streaks are to achieve a program-first OAC Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth after narrowly missing out last year when they fell to the University of Mount Union in the OAC Tournament final.
Editor’s Note: The Blue Streaks returned to action on Wednesday, April 29 in the semifinal round of the Ohio Athletic Tournament against Capital University. Head to jcusports.com for a full box score and game recap.