The Bellarmine Knights' Quest for 100 More Hours

PHOTO COURTESY OF BELLARMINE ATHLETICS


Andrew Whitley and the Bellarmine men’s lacrosse team have spent a lot of time thinking about time this spring. Ninety days since the team played its first game in 330 days, all they want is four more days together.

The Knights have even come up with a slogan to sum up the quest: Four months for 100 hours.

To get that, they need to make the SoCon tournament, a feat that’s within reach and that the program has only achieved twice in in its 15-year history. To get there and secure the fourth and final spot, Bellarmine (4-10, 1-4 SoCon) needs to defeat Mercer (5-7, 2-3) on Saturday in Louisville, a couple hours before the Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs — five miles west of Owsley B. Frazier Stadium. Richmond, the top seed in the SoCon who will host the tournament next week, also has to take care of business against Air Force.

After Bellarmine fell 8-7 at Jacksonville this past weekend in a game the Knights led for 55 minutes, several players couldn’t hold back their emotions since they thought the team was no longer in contention.

“What people forget is if you’re fortunate enough to get to your conference tournament, what you really get is time,” Whitley said yesterday. “It’s the one valuable commodity that you can’t buy in all of this … It’s interesting that all that time back in September to starting in January has been about four days in May.”

Bellarmine started its season by playing the first D-I men’s lacrosse game of 2021 on January 29 against Mercer at Five Star Stadium in Macon (Ga.). You might remember the story of how inactive junior midfielder Cam Herbert came to the rescue and brought together the lacrosse community by streaming the game on his iPhone via Periscope more than the final score.

The Knights prevailed 9-7, the program’s fifth consecutive win against the Bears. The game tomorrow at 1 p.m. will be streamed on ESPN+.

Although Herbert recovered from a bout with mononucleosis, he’s struggled to get back on the field because of an ankle injury. Bellarmine has suffered seven season-ending injuries, an added challenge in a year with no shortage of the them. The team experienced a two-week pause in activities due to COVID-19 protocols after a 19-8 loss to Jacksonville on February 10 when Bellarmine was without seven of its starters. The Knights postponed three games, made up two of them and added another against Delaware. They played four games in nine days after they resumed activities and capped the run with a 12-8 win over VMI.

They also haven’t had a single positive COVID case within the program since the pause. 

“I don’t know that it’s quite ever reached what I would qualify as ‘normal,’ but we have definitely settled into a routine,” Whitley said.







Still, Whitley remembers telling the team back in September that it would be naïve to think that team members on the cusp of playing wouldn’t get meaningful minutes that spring because of the almost certain upheaval. The advice proved prescient. Several players have stepped up to make contributions. Freshman Kyle Playsted from Calgary has turned into one of the team’s top scorers. Sophomore JC Higginbotham seized an opportunity between the pipes and has saved 51.6 percent of the shots he’s seen in 11 starts. Christian Del Rocco, another freshman attackman, has started six games and registered 13 points on eight goals and five assists, including a four-goal performance in a win over Cleveland State.

Whitley similarly knows that Mercer is also a different team than the one Bellarmine faced in January. Sean Goldsmith has tallied 17 goals and nine assists in five games after missing the Bears’ first six games due to injury.  

“I'm probably not out of line saying that they’re playing their best lacrosse of the season right now, which is really what you want to be doing and which I also think is true for us,” Whitley said.

While the first Mercer game provided hope that a college lacrosse season would take place in 2021 and took on a macro significance, the second meeting takes on a far greater importance on a micro scale to the individuals on each team.

“At the end of the day everybody wants to be playing lacrosse in May,” Whitley said.

Reflecting on the highlights of the season, he mentioned the 11-4 win against Cleveland State on senior day when Bellarmine played its best game of the season and flipped the script from an earlier 8-1 defeat to the Vikings. The victory, Whitley said, represented a mental shift because it was the first time in a long time that the Knights beat a team that previously defeated them in the same year. Bellarmine followed the performance with the one-goal loss to Jacksonville, during which Whitley could sense the team’s belief they could win the entire game. During the contest, Landon Trout became the second player in the Bellarmine men’s lacrosse history to score 100 points.

“There’s been some flashes of very meaningful moments as the season has rolled along,” Whitley said. “We try to celebrate them as they come because I think we’ll look back historically five, 10 years from now and know that was a turning point for us.”

Can the Knights add another one tomorrow?

Only time will tell.

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