By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor
Heading into their conference opener, Saint Vincent men’s lacrosse team knew that playing against Grove City would be a true test of their strength.
“I think from day one this year, not that we really circle Grove City on the schedule, but we understand it’s a big game,” Head Coach Zach Wilfong explained. “And if we want to get to where we want to get to… a lot of times we do know, historically speaking, that that road does go through Grove City.”
The Bearcats came close to conquering one of their largest targets in a 15-12 loss to the Wolverines that only slipped out of their grasp in the final quarter.
The March 29th home game started slow before exploding in the second quarter. The Bearcats held a 5-2 lead, punctuated by two goals in less than a minute scored by senior computer science major Jacob Visalli. The Wolverines fought back with five unanswered goals to take the lead into halftime. SVC scored three more goals to lead 8-7, before a real battle for the lead began. A series of ties and lead changes ensued until Grove City managed a 13-11 lead. Freshman psychology major Jonathan Nagy would score one final goal for the Bearcats, his second of the game, before the Wolverines closed out the game.
“I thought we played pretty close to a full game, but we played 50 minutes of lacrosse, and we were ten minutes short of getting the result that we wanted,” Wilfong said. He pointed to grabbing ground balls and winning face-offs as things the Bearcats could work on after the game.
Jordan Billet, senior criminology and law and society major, agreed, stating that turnovers are “important in any game”.
“The way I kind of look at it was maybe like it was like a midterm, where it won’t determine our final result, but it shows us where we are and where we need to be,” Visalli said.
The Bearcats would further show that they are not a joke a few days later on April 1 in a victory over Washington & Jefferson. SVC opened the game with 10 straight goals and took a 15-1 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Bearcat battering continued into the final two quarters. Visalli and Billet led the Bearcats with five and four goals respectively, and 18 Bearcats recorded at least one point in the 28-3 game.
Billet was recognized as Bearcat of the Week for his performance over the two games, but he took the award humbly.
“Being Bearcat of the Week felt great, but in the long run it will not mean much if we do not accomplish our long-term goals,” Billet said. “We have a saying that ‘individual awards are won by team success.’”
“It’s been hard for us to find that game where both the offense and the defense, and our special teams, are just clicking on all cylinders. Certainly, that game against W&J, everybody was on par,” Wilfong said.
While the game was not an official conference match, SVC certainly sent a message to the rest of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.. As of April 12, they have an average scoring margin of +5.0, the largest in the PAC. The Bearcats have also recorded less turnovers than the eight other teams in the conference.
“If there was any doubt in the past, there shouldn’t be,” Wilfong said in regard to how well the Bearcats can play.
The SVC head coach communicated a final message of thanks to Bearcat fans.
“To our administration and our students and our fans, you guys have been awesome this year,” Wilfong said. “As we continue to head down the road of conference play, we’re not looking ahead, but we know everybody here at Saint Vincent as well as everybody that's repping Saint Vincent, whether they’re family or friends, you guys mean a lot to us.”
The Bearcats will face a talented, senior-heavy Westminster in their next conference matchup, but absolutely have what it takes to bring home another win.