By Adam Wilson
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS — In its first-ever Ohio Athletic Conference championship game appearance, the No. 4-seeded Ohio Northern men's lacrosse team fell 13-5 to No. 3-seeded John Carroll on Saturday afternoon at Don Shula Stadium in University Heights.
With the loss, the Polar Bears drop to 13-5 overall in the 2019 campaign. The Blue Streaks improve to 12-6 overall and earn the OAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III National Tournament, which begins next week.
JCU jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after a tightly-contested first quarter, featuring just seven combined shots between the two programs. The Blue Streaks continued to expand their lead in the second quarter, stretching their advantage to 6-0 before the intermission.
Meanwhile, the Polar Bears were held to just six shots in the opening half.
In the second half, it took senior Max Weese (Hilliard/Hilliard Darby) just 17 seconds to put the Polar Bears on the board with a man-up goal. Classmate Nicholas Groves (Fishers, Ind./Bishop Chatard) added another quick goal with 13:33 left in the third period, bringing the score to 6-2.
Following two Blue Streak goals, sophomore Joe O'Connell (Fishers, Ind.) answered with the Polar Bears' second man-up goal at the 6:17 mark in the third period, which made the score 8-3 headed into the final 15 minutes.
Seniors Anthony Pavone (Bainbridge/Kenston) and Peter Hardt (Bethpage, N.Y.) added one goal each in the fourth quarter, but the Blue Streaks posted five scores of their own to capture their fourth OAC Tournament championship title all-time.
Pavone, Weese, O'Connell, and Groves each recorded a goal and an assist to pace the Polar Bear offense.
In net, senior Alex Pizarro (Boonsboro, Md.) posted 13 saves on 26 total shots faced for a 50% save rate.
Ohio Northern reached the OAC Tournament Finals for the first time in program history after defeating top-seeded Capital 10-9 Tuesday evening.