LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Bucknell men's lacrosse team rallied from an early four-goal deficit to top Marist, 11-9, in its 2018 opener on Saturday at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.
Will Sands led the Bison's comeback effort, recording five of his game-high eight points during a 5-0 run that turned a 7-3 deficit into an 8-7 advantage. Ben Clark, who took over in net after the Red Foxes' seventh goal, was impressive in his collegiate debut, making four saves and forcing a critical turnover with 1:24 remaining in regulation to help Bucknell defend its two-goal edge.
After the Bison took their 8-7 lead at the 12:15 mark of the fourth quarter, Marist responded with a man-advantage goal to even the score. The teams traded another pair of goals before Connor O'Hara netted what proved to be the game winner at the 5:56 mark; Reed Malas tacked on the insurance tally with 4:14 on the clock, and Bucknell limited the Red Foxes to a single shot on goal the rest of the way to win its season opener for the third-straight year.
"We showed a lot of grit, mental toughness and character," said head coach Frank Fedorjaka. "It's tough to be down 7-3 at home when you can't seem to stop a team. But nobody pointed fingers, and everybody stayed positive. We kept plugging away, and we came away with a win."
The teams combined for nine of the game's 20 goals in a frenetic opening quarter. Marist scored three unanswered goals from the 11:10 to the 7:25 marks to build a 4-2 lead; after the Bison pulled back within one on Sands's first strike of the contest, the Red Foxes closed the frame on a 2-0 run. They then extended their lead to 7-3 on a tally with 13:36 on the clock in the second quarter.
Marist wouldn't find the back of the net again until the 11:05 mark of the fourth quarter. During that stretch of nearly 33 minutes, Bucknell netted five goals, with Sands scoring the first and then registering the helper on the next four. Ryan Durkin gave the Bison their first lead since the 12:12 mark of the first quarter with 12:15 remaining in the fourth, taking a feed from Sands and then ripping a blistering shot past Brian Corrigan, an Inside Lacrosse Preseason All-American.
Sands recorded his eight points on two goals and six assists. He now needs just three points to move from seventh to sixth (179) in school history. He is also eight assists shy of becoming the fifth Bison to record 100 in his career.
"Will's just a great player," Fedorjaka said. "He does a great job of finding the right guy in the right spot, and you can't teach that. He's just really good at that, and he can also jam it in himself when he needs to."
O'Hara had a strong outing offensively, recording four goals on nine shots. Sean O'Brien (2g) and Malas (1g-1a) also had multi-point outings for Bucknell while Tommy Sopko netted his first collegiate goal in his first game early in the first quarter.
Nine Bison collected at least two ground balls with Conor Shears leading the way with four. Clark, Shears and Hunter Newman each forced a pair of turnovers while Jarett Witzal went 10-for-23 on faceoffs.
Four Red Foxes had multi-point outings, led by Jason Intermesoli (2g-1a) and Joe Tierney (3a). Corrigan made 10 saves while Peyton Smith went 13-for-23 on faceoffs and also led his team with four ground balls.
Bucknell will look to ride the momentum from its comeback victory over Marist into next week's game at Bryant. The Bison and defending NEC champion Bulldogs will square off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10.