ST. BONAVENTURE — The St. Bonaventure men’s lacrosse team keeps collecting firsts.
First win since returning to Division I three years ago? Done, March 6 in the season-opener, 13-6 over Quinnipiac.
First Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) win, and first victory at the Marra Athletics Conference? It did that with a 9-8 victory over Manhattan on April 2.
On Wednesday, the Bonnies earned their first major award in the MAAC, as sophomore Jake Rosa was named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Now, the Bonnies will play their first MAAC Championship playoff game, and do so on their home field, meeting Detroit in a first-round contest Friday at 1 p.m.
While Bona (4-4, 2-4) is seeded sixth out of seven teams, it got a home game due to its matchup being with No. 3 Detroit (3-3, 3-2). The MAAC penalized Detroit for leaving the conference next year, banning the Titans from hosting any postseason events.
Detroit’s loss could be the Bonnies’ gain, as Bona is 3-1 at home in 2021, including victories in their last three at the Marra Athletics Complex.
BONA ENTERS the postseason on a two-game win streak and with wins in three of its last four games. It had a similar high the last time it played Detroit, in the second game of the season coming off its first victory, but head coach Randy Mearns feels his team is keeping a more even keel this time around.
“I think that we do have momentum but it’s also a guarded momentum, as opposed to the first win when we went to Quinnipiac,” Mearns said during a press conference Wednesday. “When we came back, we had a lot of practices all fall and all of a sudden (we beat) one of the top-rated teams in the conference and we felt like we won that game pretty handily. And we came back and our guys were on cloud nine. Even as a staff, we were on cloud nine, going, ‘Wow, OK, that’s awesome.’ Then you start getting all the kudos and, ‘Wow, you guys are really good,’ and I’ve got to tell you Detroit put us right back in our place.”
The Titans won that first matchup, 11-7, in Detroit on March 13.
“So that was a learning experience from our group to kind of go, ‘Hey, let’s not get too high, let’s not get too low,’” Mearns said. “It’s all about the little things, it’s taking care of the details. But being on the winning side and having some momentum going forward and being 3-1 at home, we kind of feel like we’re in a really, really good spot to continue to take that next step.
“But we also wanted to be guarded with our guys; nobody’s going to give you anything, you need to go take it, and that’s going to come with a lot of hard work and a lot of grit. We feel like we’ve got that foundation that’s kind of realized what it takes to win now to bring it on Friday and see where we can take this thing.”
ON WEDNESDAY, the MAAC announced attackmen Rosa and junior Austin Blumbergs both made the All-Conference First Team, while Zack Belter and junior goalkeeper Brett Dobson were Second Team. Rosa led the conference in both points (32) and assists (19).
“(We’re) really excited for those guys,” Mearns said. “They put in a ton of work and again there’s other pieces of the puzzle that either get them the ball or help them on a slide package. But individually, we couldn’t be more excited for them. They’ve earned those accolades. I kind of feel that Brett is one of the best goalies in the NCAA.
“Zach puts in the hours, the film study, the weightlifting, the strength and conditioning and he’s really turned out to be one of the leaders on our defense. What else can you say with Austin? He’s probably our best player. He’s a two-way midfielder, he gets the pole every time and teams don’t make it easy for him, but he’s still able to have success, and from a coaching standpoint you can kind of work around that and get other guys involved.
Mearns added: “Jake, he’s been the catalyst, he’s kind of like our quarterback, he’s a matchup problem for the opposing defenses that we play and we’re excited to have those guys. We couldn’t be more happy today when we’ve kind of seen everything come out and getting some respect and some of those accolades.”
ADDITIONALLY, junior Sean Westley won the MAAC Offensive Player of the Week, coming off a six-goal performance in an 11-6 win over Siena in SBU’s regular season finale.
While Bona undoubtedly improved during invaluable fall practice time, thanks to following COVID-19 protocol to stay on the field, Mearns said he thinks his team learned a lot from early losses in the spring, like the one against Detroit. Playing the Titans again in the postseason will provide a measure of just how much the Bonnies improved.
“Our defensive guys have built a lot of chemistry where we’re trusting each other and have confidence in our teammates and the game plan,” Mearns said. “Coach (offensive coordinator Gil) Conners has gotten our top seven, eight offensive guys really, really jelling very, very well. They know all our sets, they know all our plays but they also have the latitude to kind of freelance to a certain extent. I feel that we really, from that time, have kind of grown. I guess the question is how much more can we continue to grow, and playing Detroit once again, I think that will kind of tell the story of whether or not we’ve continued to improve and by how much. That’ll be a telltale sign in the result on Friday.”