Jacksonville women's lacrosse starts strong, upsets Stanford in NCAA Tournament

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

GAINESVILLE –– A rain delay lasting slightly more than two hours wasn’t going to thwart Jacksonville lacrosse team's plans of extending its season.

The No. 17-ranked Dolphins (14-4) scored 10 unanswered goals before No. 14 Stanford (12-17)  could find the back of the net, and JU eventually secured a 20-8 victory over the Cardinal following a hiatus due to lightning in the area.

"It gave us the momentum that we needed, and we kept taking it," Jacksonville coach Mindy McCord said. "We talk about just doing what's working, and that kept working, and I think it built us a cushion."

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Jacksonville needed just 49 seconds and one shot attempt to open the scoring as Sarah Elms found the back of the net from short range for her 62nd goal of the season. Alyssa Arnold, the Dolphins’ first substitution of the contest, made it 2-0 less than a minute later, and Elms’ second goal with 10:45 left in the first quarter extended JU’s lead to 3-0. 

By the conclusion of the opening period, the Dolphins had a 8-0 lead on 16 shot attempts, and the rout was in full swing. 

"Holding them scoreless for a quarter was great," McCord said. "Winning draws was really important for us, and winning ground balls, like, they're a great ground-ball team if you look at them statistically, and we were hungry for those possessions, and I think the extra possessions really meant a lot to us."

Elms added a pair of goals as the second quarter opened, and Jacksonville’s double-digit lead briefly set up a running clock. The Cardinal would get on the scoreboard with a goal from Ali Baiocco, her 62nd of the season, with 6:57 left to play until halftime, and Stanford would find the back of the net to cut the halftime deficit to 11-3. 

The Cardinal opened the second-half scoring, only for the contest to be delayed for at least 30 minutes due to lightning in the area just 1:48 into the third quarter. The delay ultimately lasted two hours and one minute, and when the teams resumed under clear skies the Dolphins picked up where they left off. 

Within the first two minutes of the game’s resumption, JU scored three goals, two of which were by senior attacker Lauren Craft, to regain a double-digit advantage, and JU soon had a 17-5 lead as the fourth quarter arrived amid another running clock.

With the victory, the Dolphins set up a rematch with the University of Florida after the Gators defeated Mercer University, 19-12, in the first contest of Friday’s doubleheader. In Jacksonville’s regular season finale, the Dolphins fell at UF, 12-6.

Here are takeaways from Friday's contest.

Sarah Elms leads JU offense

JU leading goal-scorer Sarah Elms scored five goals, including three in the first quarter, and assisted on three others in the Dolphins’ 20-8 win over Stanford University. 

Her goal in the opening minute set the tone for JU, as the Dolphins proceeded to net 10 unanswered goals over the ensuing  23 minutes of game-time. 

Elms’ five goals brings her total to 66 on the season heading into Sunday. She ultimately contributed on as many goals as Stanford totaled.

"Sarah's game has really grown," McCord said. "Her being able to be successful, whether she's in a face-guard, whether she's just off-ball cutting, or whether she's dodging, she's a triple-threat now. And I think you saw that in her game."

Jacksonville attack Sarah Elms (31) scores a goal during the second quarter of the ASUN Conference Championship Saturday, May 7, 2022 at Jacksonville University's Rock Stadium in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Dolphins defeated the Liberty Flames 20-12.

Jacksonville unaffected by delay

The delay due to lightning in the area didn’t seem to hinder the Dolphins — if anything, it allowed JU to regain the momentum it had briefly surrendered to Stanford just prior to the 121-minute hiatus in play. 

JU scored four goals in as many minutes to effectively squash what hopes the Cardinal had of capitalizing on the interruption in the contest. The Dolphins finished the quarter with six goals, giving JU a commanding 17-5 lead heading into the final 15 minutes of play. 

"We talked a lot about ball movement and just tempo of play and just keep working," McCord said. "Like, you don't have to look for the little shot, like just wait, the big shots will be there, and those seams and lanes will open. You just have to be patient, and I think when we were patient and just kept moving the ball, they found the looks that they needed and were able to execute."

Ashley Humphrey breaks record

It may have come in a losing effort, but Stanford redshirt freshman Ashley Humphrey broke an NCAA record for assists in a season with her third assist of the contest, which came at the top of the fourth quarter. Humphrey’s assist was her 87th of the season, breaking the previous record of 86, set by Stony Brook’s Kylie Ohlmiller in 2017. 

"She's phenomenal," McCord said of Humphrey. "She's got to feed the ball, but she also can dodge. We needed to try to force them and dictate where we wanted shots to come from."

Gators and Dolphins set for a rematch

The NCAA second round matchup between the Gators and the Dolphins will mark the second meeting in 16 days at Donald R. Dizney Stadium between the two teams. UF secured a 12-6 victory over JU on April 27 after taking a 3-0 leading within the opening five minutes.

In that contest, which marked the regular-season finale for Jacksonville, Dolphins goalkeeper Paige Pagano recorded 17 saves, just one shy of the program record for saves in a game. 

With a spot in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals on the line, the Dolphins are focused on the game plan rather than on revenge — which means coming out of the gates with a more imposing presence, like they did against the Cardinal.

"It really has to come from the players, like, there's not much more you're doing at this point," McCord said. "They know their matchup, they know the game plan. They have to execute it, and I think the leadership that we have on this team is what separates this year. And when you get a group of leaders that have a vision, and they believe in each other and they have dreams, they're dangerous on the field, and I hope that's what they'll bring on Sunday."