St. Bonaventure hosts its first-ever MAAC Tournament game this Friday when it welcomes Detroit Mercy to the Marra Athletics Complex for a first round battle. St. Bonaventure will look to keep its hot streak alive on home turf after winning back-to-back games to wrap the regular season and finishing the year with a 3-1 record at its home facility. Detroit, meanwhile, has not played since April 9 due to virus protocols with scheduled opponents the last two weeks.
St. Bonaventure University and MAAC fan policy will allow two family members per home student-athlete as well as two family members per Detroit Mercy student-athlete to be in attendance. All other off-campus visitors are still not permitted on campus at St. Bonaventure, though Bonnies students and staff are welcome to attend.
The Bonnies are looking for their first victory over Detroit Mercy, and to avenge a loss in the Motor City on March 13. In the regular season matchup, the Titans took a 6-1 lead to halftime and stretched their advantage to 10-1 at the 9:36 mark of the third quarter before the Bonnies started to claw back, but the deficit was too much to overcome as the Titans won what was the conference opener for both squads. Sean Westley scored twice while Matthew DeGirolamo, Jackson Rose, Zach Owens, Mark Belles and Matthew Cromie all scored once for the Bonnies. Ryan Birney tallied a hat trick for the Titans while Luke Majick, Will Edell and AJ Van Voorhis all registered two goals in the win.
RECORD BOOK PERFORMANCE
Bona junior Sean Westley wrote his name into the program record books last Saturday when he put on an electric performance that saw him strike for six goals. It set a new program record for single-game goal-scoring, surpassing the previous record of four. Westley earned MAAC Offensive Player of the Week accolades for his effort.
The Bonnies have re-written the program record book this season in their third year at the Division I level, and that continued Wednesday with the release of the annual MAAC All-Conference teams and major awards.
St. Bonaventure received its first all-conference accolades since returning the program to the varsity level in 2019 as four players were recognized: Jake Rosa (attack) and Austin Blumbergs (midfield) were both named to the First Team with Zack Belter (defense) and Brett Dobson (goalie) earning Second Team honors. Rosa became Bona's first MAAC major award winner, taking Offensive Player of the Year. For more, click here for the all-conference release.
Three players - Blumbergs, Dobson and Westley – had been named to the All-Rookie Team following the 2019 campaign.
St. Bonaventure also had 16 representatives on the MAAC All-Academic Team, another program record. Brodie Anderson, Mark Belles, Austin Blumbergs, Ryan Burns, Cian Collins, Matthew DeGirolamo, CJ DiRienzo, Ben Garcia, Andrew Hersey, Jack Kenney, Ben Mazur, Zach Owens, Adam Shank, Nick Slattery, Sean Westley and Brady Wijbrandts all earned accolades from the conference.
DEFENSE ON LOCK
St. Bonaventure has boasted one of the nation's top defenses this season, holding opponents under nine goals per game on average for the year.
Among all Division I teams this spring, St. Bonaventure stands fifth in scoring defense (8.88 goals per game allowed) – though the national leader, Brown, has played just one game. That leaves just three other teams that have played full schedules who have been tougher to score on this year: Georgetown (7.18 goals per game), Monmouth (7.86) and Notre Dame (8.56). Friday's opponent, Detroit, stands 10th by allowing 9.33 goals per contest.
A big reason for Bona's impressive defensive performance is the work of junior Brett Dobson in the cage. Dobson has established himself as one of the nation's top goalies this year, ranking third nationally in save percentage (.610), sixth in saves per game (13.88) and eighth in goals against average (8.88). He has stopped exactly 15 shots in each of the past four games.
Zack Belter has been a defensive standout for the third season, and he has been joined by a group of underclassmen who have had strong seasons. Brady Wijbrandts is second on the team with nine caused turnovers, adding 12 groundballs, and has been frequently disruptive on the defensive end. A pair of freshmen have also been defensive keys: Nick Porfilio has started all eight games with seven caused turnovers and Cam Germain has started six of eight contests.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Bonnies have been at their best on home turf this season.
St. Bonaventure has played just one road game since March 20 and has benefitted from the home heavy finish to the year, winning three straight at the Marra Athletics Complex with victories over regular season co-champion Manhattan (9-8), Canisius (12-11) and Siena (11-6) to finish the year with a 3-1 home record. Bona's only home loss was a 5-4 heartbreaker vs. Quinnipiac on March 27 when the game-winning goal was scored with under 10 seconds to play.
Friday's game also brings back the memory of Bona's very first home game at the Marra Complex two years ago. St. Bonaventure brought Division I men's lacrosse back to the Enchanted Mountains by welcoming Detroit Mercy under the lights in front of a large crowd March 9, 2019. Matthew DeGirolamo scored the first Bonnies home goal for a 1-0 lead under four minutes in, but Detroit would control the rest of the way onto a 16-8 victory.
FROM THE GROUND UP
It has been a special season for the Bonnies as many members of the original team have seen the work of the past three-plus years start to pay off.
Three seasons ago, the Bonnies boasted 33 freshmen on their inaugural roster and took their lumps in the early going. St. Bonaventure lost 19 games to begin its Division I era, but immediately turned that around with a convincing win in the very first game of 2021, 13-6, at Quinnipiac March 6.
Twenty-one of those original players are now juniors and the growth of the program has been obvious to anyone following the MAAC this season. St. Bonaventure not only broke into the win column, but it also finished 4-4 and owned a positive scoring margin for the season, 77-71.
A quick look at the MAAC stat leaderboard this season shows Bonnies at or near the top of nearly every category.
Jake Rosa led all players in points (32), with the next highest total coming from Siena's Jack Kiernan with 27. Westley ranked third in points with 26. Rosa's 19 assists were also a conference-best, six more than any other player.
Dobson led the league in saves per game (13.8) and save percentage (.610) while standing second in goals against average (8.8).
Austin Holley stands seventh in groundballs (27) and fifth in faceoff wins (64).
Zack Belter ranks fifth in caused turnovers (11).
Bona junior Jackson Rose has been excellent on the power play this season. The Texas native has converted four man-up goals this spring, ranking third in the MAAC and 24th in the nation. All four of Rose's goals this year have been on the power play while he has converted goals on four of his seven total shots.
St. Bonaventure has had a flair for the dramatic this season, playing nearly every game right down to the wire.
The team's 11-6 win over Siena in the regular season finale last weekend looked like a landslide victory in comparison to the stretch right before it. Prior to that game, St. Bonaventure's previous five games were settled by one or two goals including four one-goal games. Surprisingly, given those performances, though, the Bonnies have yet to play an overtime game in the past three seasons.
While Friday's game will be the first MAAC Tournament contest for every Bonnies player, there will be a ton of conference playoff coaching experience on the sidelines. Bona head coach Randy Mearns previously guided Canisius for 19 seasons, winning the MAAC Championship in 2008 and 2012.
Assistant coach Nico Capron was a player on that 2012 Canisius MAAC championship team.
ABOUT DETROIT MERCY
The Titans (3-3, 3-2) have had their schedule disrupted due to virus safety protocols of scheduled opponents, seeing their last two games scheduled against Marist and Quinnipiac canceled. As a result, Detroit Mercy has not played since a 9-7 loss at Monmouth April 9, dropping their road record to 1-3.
Six players earned All-MAAC honors: senior Paul Manuszak is the league's long stick midfielder of the year for the second time while seniors Alex Akins and Brett Erksine were first team picks at defense and attack respectively. Senior defender Sam McClain and sophomore midfielder Luke Majick were second team selections and freshman Will Edell landed on the All-Rookie Team.
Erksine is the team's most prolific scorer, posting 15 goals and 22 points. Edell (7 goals, 12 points) and Luke Majick (6 goals, 12 points) also add scoring threats. Alex Jarzembowski will be a formidable foe in the faceoff X, winning 82 faceoffs this season. In the cage, Logan Shamblin is one of the better goalies the MAAC has to offer, posting a .556 save percentage and a 9.33 goals against average this year. The Titans were selected to finish second in the MAAC Preseason Poll and enter the tournament as the third seed.
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