The Wheeling Jesuit men's lacrosse team is turning heads across the country after soundly defeating the #8 Seton Hill Griffins 18-12 at Seton Hill on Saturday in a game that potentially could have eliminated the team from NCAA playoff contention.
Following the upset win, the Cardinals have now moved back into the national rankings, have received four separate player of the week awards, and have been featured in Lacrosse Magazine as a team to watch heading into NCAA tournament time.
After beating Seton Hill, WJU breaks back into the national rankings at No.11 in the USILA weekly poll, and No.10 in the Lacrosse Magazine rankings, legitimizing their spot in the top 15 (having been ranked 12th earlier in the season).
"This win certainly helps validate our 9-1 record, but more important than that, it is a reflection of the potential our team has when they play with confidence and come ready to compete from the opening whistle," said WJU head coach Kevin Dugan in an interview in Lacrosse Magazine. "Realizing our full potential is more important to me than the national rankings, and we have been taking some nice steps forward since our Lake Erie game that have us moving in the right direction. Our goal is to be playing our best lacrosse towards the end of April and I am really happy with where we are as a program right now."
Additionally, sophomore Bryce Brochu has raked in two awards this week after scoring six goals against the Griffins. He has been named the Lacrosse Magazine national DII player of the week, as well as the ECAC DII Conference Player of the Week; a title he's already held once this season.
The efforts of the Ontario native are showing in the latest NCAA statistical rankings too, where Brochu sits ranked No.13 nationally, and No.2 in the ECAC in goals-per-game.
"Bryce is an All-American caliber player and has proved that all season," added coach Dugan. "His spirit and demeanor is what makes him so special. His physical talents and competitive fire, coupled with a real humble spirit is a unique and special thing. The beautiful thing about Bryce is that he never stops having fun playing lacrosse; he has so much natural passion for the game."
Two more Cardinals also picked up Player of the Week honors. Junior defender Corey Luebbe (Centerville, Ohio) has been named the ECAC's DII Defensive Player of the Week, (a title he too has held once this season) while freshman Jack Brandenburg (Lothian, Md.) was given the ECAC nod as Rookie of the Week.
Luebbe led the Cardinal defense against SHU with six ground balls and four caused turnovers. Earlier in the week, he recorded nine ground balls and five caused turnovers in a win over Alderson Broaddus.
Brandenburg was the only freshman starter in the win over the Griffins. He scooped up four ground balls in that game; and caused three turnovers and picked up two ground balls against AB earlier in the week.
"Our win against Seton Hill was a total team effort, and the thing I am most pleased with was our decision making all over the field," Dugan told Lacrosse Magazine. "Defensively we are improving on a lot of the little nuances that in isolation are little things, but that add up over the course of a 60 minute game. Offensively our shot selection has improved dramatically. As has been the case all year long our seniors have a special sense of urgency that helps carry the team. They are definitely the heartbeat of the team and served as the driving force on Saturday. I am fortunate to have the seniors and the assistant coaches that I have."
The Cardinals now get ready to face their biggest test of the year when the #4 Mercyhurst Lakers pay a visit to the Friendly City. Face-off for that game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday on Wheeling Jesuit's new Bishop Schmitt Field.