By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Capital University Men's Lacrosse came into Tuesday night's game on the heels of an Ohio Athletic Conference title-clinching win on Saturday and as the top seed in the OAC Tournament. The Crusaders will have to settle for just the regular season title though as they were upset by Ohio Northern University 10-9 in a back-and-forth contest.
The Polar Bears gave Capital one of its toughest games of the regular season on April 19, a game Capital won 11-9, but ONU made the adjustments necessary to come out on top in the second meeting.
The Polar Bears shot out of the gates unafraid and stunned the Crusaders and Capital fans by scoring the first three goals of the game to take a 3-0 lead with 9:22 left in the first quarter. Capital had two turnovers in that span, a trend that unfortunately continued throughout the night for the Purple and White.
Carter McCormick (Horseheads, N.Y./Horseheads) got the Crusaders on the board off a feed from CJ Hughes (Cincinnati, Ohio/Walnut Hills) at the 8:23 mark and then Jack Scharner (Maineville, Ohio/King's) set up Luke Wyatt (Springboro, Ohio/Springboro) for a score that cut the deficit to one. Ohio Northern responded with another goal before the end of the quarter though and led 4-2 after one. Capital turned the ball over six times in the first 15 minutes and were outshot 13-6.
Capital showed more life in the second period and started to play like the team that had not lost to an OAC opponent all season by scoring twice within the first five minutes to tie the game. Talbott Gottwals (Columbia, Md./Atholon) opened his account just 14 seconds into the quarter and then Hughes scored his first to make it a 4-4 game. Ohio Northern reclaimed the lead with 6:54 until the half before Wyatt netted his second to knot the game at 5-5. Just before the half, ONU mounted one final attack by causing a turnover near midfield and sprinting on the break. With only eight seconds left a shot clanked off the post and went out of bounds with only four seconds left. The Polar Bears quickly restarted play to the left of Capital's goal, dumped it in front of goal and Anthony Pavone buried a shot with only 0.8 seconds left.
Capital finished the first half with 11 turnovers to ONU's six and were outshot 26-15. The Crusaders were unsuccessful on two man-up opportunities.
Coming into the game, the Crusaders and Polar Bears were the two best defensive teams in the OAC and they demonstrated why in the third quarter. Of the 20 total shots in the period, 11 for Capital and nine for ONU, only one found the back of the net, a strike by Cameron Marous with only 2:03 remaining in the quarter. Goalkeepers T.J. Johnson (Champlin, Minn/Champlin Park) and Alex Pizarro each made five saves in the period and against the Crusaders turned the ball over six times.
Ohio Northern scored the first goal of the fourth quarter to equal the largest lead of the game at 8-5. Hughes made it a two-goal game again with his second of the night just 14 seconds after the ONU goal but Nicholas Groves increased the Polar Bear lead to three again with seven minutes to play. Two unanswered goals from Wyatt and Hughes closed the gap to just one again with three minutes to play. Twenty-four seconds after the goal from Hughes that made it a 9-8 game, Chris DiMarco found the back of the net for ONU.
Still, the Crusaders refused to give in and McCormick scored with 52 seconds remaining to close the gap again. Capital won the ensuing faceoff and after a timeout the Crusaders worked the ball around the perimeter but ONU's stifling defense prevented Capital from getting off the potential game-tying shot.
Hughes led all scorers with three goals and three assists for six points and Wyatt recorded his ninth hat trick of the season. McCormick scored twice and had an assist. Three Polar Bears scored two goals and seven ONU players found the back of the net.
Ohio Northern finished the game with a 42-32 advantage in shots and had only 13 turnovers to Capital's 21.
With his six points, Hughes finished the season with 94 total points, the most in a single season in program history. His 31 total assists are also the most in a season in Capital history.
In goal, Johnson made 13 saves while Pizarro finished with seven. The game was Johnson's 12th game of the season with at least 10 saves and his 172 total saves are the most in program history.
With the loss, the Crusaders finish their season with a 15-2 overall record. The 15 wins are the most in a single season in program history and the team set a program record with nine OAC wins. The Crusaders set the program record with 15 wins in a row, surpassing the previous record of nine games. The two losses are the fewest in team history and it was the second time in team history that the Crusaders finished the regular season with an undefeated OAC record. Capital's 254 goals, 154 assists and 408 points are all single-season program records.