With the strongest crowd all season on hand, four decorated seniors, Mark DiFrangia, Stefan Diachenko, Nick Sherry and Chris Fisher Jr., were honored before the final home game of their careers.
It was certainly a bittersweet ending though, as the St. John’s lacrosse team fell to fifth-ranked Denver (9-2, 3-0), 18-5, on Senior Day Saturday at DaSilva Memorial Field.
The Johnnies (3-9, 1-2) gave up eight quick goals in the second period and lost in the face-off category, 16 to 26.
“It’s a great group,” head coach Jim Miller said. “These guys do everything that we ask them to do. They never take a day off practice wise. They never take a day off in the weight room. They are exactly who you want lacrosse players here to be.”
In the opening period, the Johnnies kept the score close by playing solid defense, forcing turnovers and receiving a late goal from James Bonanno on an extra-man opportunity.
The Johnnies had the crowd energized heading into the second period; however they were suddenly dominated by an impressive Pioneers’ attack and multiple illegal procedure violations (a 5-1 disadvantage for the game) that gave Denver more time of possession.
“It’s a game of swings, a game of momentum.” Diachenko, a senior attacker, said. “Sometimes things will go our way and sometimes things don’t. I think we did a good job of playing our game but sometimes it doesn’t come together.”
The Pioneers have been terrific as a program over the past few seasons and since joining the Big East they haven’t lost a single conference game. On Saturday, St. John’s struggled to control possession due to Denver’s efficient offense and face-off prowess.
“I think they are excellent top to bottom,” Coach Miller said about Denver following the loss. “Their offensive personnel has a really special skill set and they have the best face-off play in the country.”
St. John’s had multiple positives to take away from their loss as they only turned the ball over 15 times to Denver’s 17 times, had a better extra-man opportunity percentage, only possessed one less ground ball and had 28 shots on goal.
Moving forward, the Johnnies will still have an opportunity to make the Big East Lacrosse Championship in Pennsylvania. However they are going to need to win their final two Big East regular season match-ups on the road against Villanova and Georgetown.
“We can always find ways to get better,” Coach Miller said. “I know my guys are going to continue to fight and we can win our way into [this Big East Tournament].”
It won’t be an easy task; but. if anyone can pull off a marvelous run, it would be the Johnnies with these tremendous seniors leading the way.