Falcone Strong, Offense Sputters in Opener
EASTON, Pa. -- The Lafayette men's lacrosse team could never get going offensively on Friday evening at Fisher Stadium, opening up the 2016 season with a 12-8 loss to Sacred Heart.
"I thought we played a little tentative. They were better on ground balls and if you're going to win games, you have to win the ground-ball battle," head coach Jim Rogalski said. "It was a two-goal game going into the fourth quarter and we've told our guys all year that we want to be in situations late to win games. Now we just have to learn to finish."
Despite being on the low end of a 41-28 battle in ground balls, the Leopards fought their way back after falling into a 7-3 hole at the beginning of the third quarter. Two goals from an unlikely source in freshman Connar Dehnert, both from junior Jason Sands, pulled the Leopards right back within two at 7-5 with 3:02 left in the third.
Dehnert wasn't the only freshmen to get significant playing time as the Leopards started three rookies in defense in Sean Andrews, Josh Hubbard and Zack Merle. Additionally, rookie Michael Sullivan took 13 faceoffs, winning eight on the night.
"We're playing some freshmen and I thought they did a good job," Rogalski added. "The three defensemen on the back end played well. They'll continue to play better as they gain more confidence and more experience. I was very pleased with how Jack McMahon and Michael Sullivan performed at the X. That's definitely an area of emphasis and was a bright spot tonight."
McMahon won seven of his 11 faceoff chances as Lafayette won 15 of the game's 24 battles at the X.
The fourth quarter started with goals from either side, bringing the game under the nine-minute mark at 8-6 in favor of the visitors. Unfortunately, penalties hurt the Leopards' chances at closing the gap as two man-up goals from Sacred Heart's Max Tuttle and Brian Masi opened the lead back to four and the Pioneers played to the whistle with a 12-8 victory.
Shots were 40-25 in favor of the visitors, while Lafayette converted on 16 of its 24 clear opportunities compared to 18-of-19 for Sacred Heart. Each side was 2-for-3 in man-up situations.
Senior Ben Falcone was excellent between the pipes for the Maroon and White, seemingly single-handedly keeping Lafayette in the game with seven first-half saves, including a point-blank stop less than a minute into the game. Falcone finished his night with 13 stops, allowing 12 goals in defeat. On the other side, Sacred Heart's A.J. Boyd stopped seven Lafayette shots, surrendering eight goals for his first win of the year.
"Ben had a solid game. He made the stops when we needed him and was key in a few clear situations," Rogalski concluded. "I think we need to give him a little more help with some offensive possession and score some more goals."
Three Leopards recorded multi-goal games as junior Kevin Lewis, sophomore Will McCarthy and Denhert all found the back of the net twice. Sands finished with four assists on the night, while junior Eric Joseph and senior Morgan Westby each added a goal apiece.
Lafayette is back in action on Feb. 19, hosting Wagner with opening faceoff set for 4 p.m.