Watson’s Nine-Point Day Proved Lethal as No. 11 Jacksonville Defeats Robert Morris


Robert Morris has dropped its last three games and fall to .500 on the season Photo credit: Hope Beatty

Nathan Breisinger

MOON TOWNSHIP — Looking to snap a two-game losing streak, Robert Morris men’s lacrosse welcomed arguably its toughest opponent of the 2023 campaign to Joe Walton Stadium with No. 11 Jacksonville riding a five-game winning streak.

Jacksonville’s (6-1, 1-0 ASUN) potent offense proved to be problematic for Robert Morris (3-3, 0-1 ASUN) as the Dolphins were propelled by several timely goal scorers, but none bigger than Dylan Watson as his six goals led to a 12-6 Jacksonville victory.

As time drained off the clock in the third quarter, the Dolphins were unraveling as they went over 10 minutes without a goal. Already with two goals on the afternoon, Watson took it amongst himself to restart the scoring for the Dolphins.

Hauling in a stretch pass from Cole Daninger, Watson turned and ripped it past Nate Randall. In a remarkable four seconds, Watson got it back in a similar spot and fired it home with one second left on the third quarter clock.

Watson’s heat check continued as he buried two more to start the fourth quarter. Watson’s four second-half goals came in the span of six minutes.

“[Watson] found his way to get the ball on his stick and finish and he does that really well,” Robert Morris head coach Craig McDonald said. “We knew if he had those opportunities he would probably put them away and he did.”

The snow did not slow down the Dolphins as they doubled up the Colonials 12-6 (Photo by Hope Beatty)

New to the ASUN in 2023, Jacksonville’s offense was expected to be a challenge as the Dolphins score 13.83 goals per game, 17th-best in the nation. With an opportunity for RMU to go ahead by a goal on the man advantage early in the contest, Jacksonville swiftly killed off the penalty and proceeded to dump three goals past Randall to jump to a 4-1 lead.

“It’s a game of runs,” McDonald said. “You’re not going to score on every man-up opportunity you have. Thought we got some good looks and had some good opportunities.”

With Jacksonville maintaining its lead, the Colonials tried to shrink the deficit before halftime. After picking up a ground ball, Will MacLeod spun off a defender to move in on Dolphins goalie Luke Millican as he finished with a shot over the left shoulder to make it a two-goal game.

As the highlight reel goal brought some much-needed energy to the Colonials bench, Jacksonville was unfazed even with the snow coming down as visibility dropped on the field. The warm-weathered Jacksonville crew added two more goals before halftime.

“Against an opponent like that, every mistake you make, they are going to make you pay for it and you got to cash in on your opportunities,” McDonald said.

Robert Morris closed in on the Jacksonville lead after the Dolphins started to play sloppy throughout the third quarter. The Colonials continued to force turnovers and grab ground balls and it finally paid off with two goals, including a no-look goal from Liam Keane as he emerged from behind the net with a defender draped all over him. Taggart Clark added another to cut it to an 8-6 Dolphins lead.

All of this came while the Colonials kept the Dolphins off of the scoreboard for an extended period of time.

“We were playing together,” McDonald said. “We were controlling what we could control and playing our game. I thought when we did that, we were successful.”

That third-quarter success quickly evaporated when Watson took over for the remainder of the game on the way to his six goals for the Dolphins.

The Colonials did not go down without a few more solid opportunities including a point-blank shot from the Colonials leading goal scorer entering the game, David Burr. The Rutgers transfer was found all alone in front after strong ball movement from the Colonials, but Millican dropped down to make the low save.

“There were a lot of opportunities out there,” McDonald said. “When we watch the film, we are going to be kicking ourselves a little bit. We left a little bit on the table.”

After dropping its last three games, Robert Morris will now turn its attention towards Cleveland State (3-2, 1-0 ASUN) as the Colonials will welcome the Vikings to Joe Walton Stadium next Saturday, March 25 for a 1 p.m. start.