Johnnies’ club lacrosse team finishes second at national tournament

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May 23, 2014

By Mike Killeen

The 2014 SJU lacrosse team

Jake Helmer

Jake Helmer carries the ball for the Johnnies.

Photo by Anna Scipione and provided by the MCLA

When a team advances to 10 consecutive national championship tournaments, you know the bar on success is already set pretty high.

But the 2014 Saint John's University club lacrosse team, which finished second in the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) Division II tournament, managed to up the ante just a little bit.

The Johnnies lost to Grand Valley State University 12-11 May 17 at Chapman Stadium in Orange, California, in the Division II title game. It was the third time SJU finished second in the nation, following runner-up finishes in 2006 and ‘07.

Head coach Derek Daehn said he will miss the five seniors on the team — the first class he fully recruited to the team.

"They have a special spot in my heart," Daehn said of seniors Josh Erickson, Jake Helmer, Miles Armitage, Luke DeBruzzi and Lucas Eggerichs. "They are going to be missed. They definitely brought the program back to where it was, and in my eyes, we realistically raised the bar because I think we were a lot more competitive now than it was the last time we were in the finals.

"With that said, of our 42 players, we return 37 players and we have a really good recruiting class coming in, which will add more depth. We are going to reload and come back better next year," Daehn said.

Not that the Johnnies, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, disappointed this season. They finished with a 13-3 overall record, including two victories over defending national champion St. Thomas. SJU also posted a perfect 4-0 mark in the Upper Midwest Lacrosse Conference.

"This is the first time we've swept St. Thomas in my six years (of coaching SJU)," Daehn said. "Hopefully, this exposure in the national tournament will help us in the recruiting area, and we can continue to beat them consistently year-in and year-out.

"This was the first year that I really felt like this was a team destined for this opportunity," Daehn said.

Daehn, who played collegiately with the University of Minnesota-Duluth club team, said the team has switched its personality from defensive to offensive.

"I played defense in high school and college, and we've always had that — quote-unquote — defensive style of team," Daehn said. "This was the first year where our coaching staff really felt like our offense was at an elite level like our defense has been, and we could just run with people and put points up. It felt like it didn't matter what type of team we went up against, we could compete with anybody."

Helmer, from Mahtomedi, Minnesota, led SJU in scoring, with 36 goals and 28 assists for 64 points. He was one of four first-team All-American selections SJU had, including Andrew Fairbairn (20-16-36), Erickson and Eggerichs. Daehn was also named the 2014 MCLA Division II Coach of the Year.

Still, Daehn and the Johnnies would have rather taken home the championship trophy.

"It's nice to be recognized by my peers, but the ultimate prize is a team victory. Individual accolades, as nice as they are, still doesn't beat being king of the mountain," Daehn said.