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Another Day For History: Bonnies Score First Postseason Win, 11-8, Over Detroit Mercy

St. Bonaventure celebrates a goal during Friday's MAAC quarterfinal victory. (Photo by: Nathan DeSutter)
St. Bonaventure celebrates a goal during Friday's MAAC quarterfinal victory. (Photo by: Nathan DeSutter)
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ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – It has been a history-making season for the St. Bonaventure men's lacrosse team as nearly each passing week has brought another first for the program. Friday brought an extra-special moment for the record books: the Bonnies' first postseason victory.

St. Bonaventure started fast and weathered a rally from visiting Detroit Mercy to win, 11-8, in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) quarterfinals at a windswept Marra Athletics Complex.

"It was a gritty win," St. Bonaventure head coach Randy Mearns said. "We had a lot of opportunities early, but their goalkeeper is extremely talented and made some big saves in that first half. Our defense played great. We've continued to build chemistry and trust in each other and to hold Detroit to eight goals is tremendous. Our faceoff unit and wing play was great; we grinded for groundballs. We're just so proud of our guys and the work they've put in. This is a huge win in program history."

Eight different Bonnies posted goals, matching a program record, led by two each from MAAC Offensive Player of the Year Jake Rosa, Sean Westley and Nick Slattery.

Rosa, a sophomore from Windsor, Ontario, showed why he became the first Bonnies player to earn a major MAAC postseason award as he also handed out two assists to add to his conference-leading season point total with four on the day.

The Bonnies (5-4), hosting despite being the sixth seed in the tournament against third-seeded Detroit Mercy due to the Titans foregoing hosting rights by leaving the conference at season's end, started the game on fire.

St. Bonaventure dominated the first quarter, running out to a 5-1 lead with opportunities for more as Detroit goalie Logan Shamblin kept the Titans in the game with multiple impressive saves.

Zach Owens put the Bonnies on the board first with his eighth goal of the year at the 10:49 mark of the opening period, but the score would remain just 1-0 despite the hosts controlling the momentum and pace of play. Detroit would tie the game on a goal from Paul Manuszak with 2:48 left in the quarter.

The last two minutes of the first quarter saw the Bonnies seize control.

Bona scored four times in the final 2:08 of the quarter to race ahead, following goals from Westley, Rosa and Mark Belles as well as a power play strike from Austin Blumbergs. Belles struck just one second before the end of the period, sending the Titans into the quarter break shell-shocked.

The St. Bonaventure defense, which entered the day ranked fifth nationally by allowing 8.8 goals per contest, held Detroit off the scoreboard for nearly six minutes to begin the second quarter before the Titans began to chip away. Ryan Birney and Brett Erksine both scored before halftime as the teams went to intermission separated only by a 5-3 tally.

Detroit Mercy continued to maintain momentum as the second half began, scoring the first two goals of the third quarter to tie the game 5-5 on another Birney goal with 9:08 left in the period.

Nick Slattery, a redshirt sophomore in his first season with the program, broke the tie just over 40 seconds later, though, scoring unassisted. The back-and-forth continued as Kyle Loken tied the game again, 6-6, with 6:54 left in the third.

Things remained tied for over four minutes before Westley, the league's leading goal-scorer this season and reigning MAAC Offensive Player of the Week, deposited a pass from Rosa into the net for a 7-6 advantage with 2:04 left in the third.

From there, the Bonnies never relinquished the lead.

Slattery, who had one goal on the year entering the day, scored his second of the afternoon with 13 seconds left in the third for an 8-6 score.

Bona kept the foot on the gas pedal as Brett Beetow opened the scoring in the fourth followed by a tremendous sequence that resulted in Zack Belter picking up his own rebound before converting on a long pole goal just nine seconds after Beetow's score.

Rosa completed a 5-0 Bonnies run by taking an assist from Slattery for an 11-6 lead with 10 minutes remaining.

It was more than enough to down the Titans (3-4) and move on in the conference tournament bracket.

Brett Dobson made 12 saves in net for the Bonnies while Belter posted five groundballs. At the faceoff X, freshman Austin Holley more than held his own against one of the league's best faceoff specialists in Alex Jarzembrowski, winning 12 of 22 faceoffs.

Slattery finished with a career-best three points with Belles also matching that tally.

Detroit Mercy held a 40-30 edge in total shots while SBU won the groundball battle, 29-27. Bona's penalty kill was again strong, holding the visitors to just 1-for-5 in man-up opportunities. Shamblin finished with 10 saves for the Titans while Birney had the game's lone hat trick, scoring three times on eight shot attempts. 

St. Bonaventure will travel to play at second-seeded Monmouth in Wednesday's semifinals at a time to be announced.

GAME NOTES:

  • St. Bonaventure has won three straight games for the first time in program history, moving to 4-1 at home this year.
  • The Bonnies scored their first-ever win over Detroit Mercy, avenging an 11-7 loss on the road last month. Detroit Mercy also won Bona's first-ever home game in 2019, 16-8.
  • Rosa lifted his point total to 36, best in the conference, while Westley became the first Bonnies player since the rebirth of the program three years ago to surpass the 20-goal total in a season with 21.
  • Austin Blumbergs finished with four groundballs on the day.
  • Monmouth squeaked past seventh-seeded Siena, 12-11, to earn hosting rights for the semifinal round. The conference is guaranteed to have a new champion as 2019 champ Marist lost at Canisius, 14-13. 

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