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ST. LOUIS—[SEASON BOX] [RECORD BOOK] In its ninth season of existence, Missouri Baptist Men's Lacrosse took another step toward becoming one of the top programs in the NAIA. The Spartans finished the 2017 campaign with an 8-5 record and qualified for the NAIA National Invitational for the second consecutive year.
Big things were expected of this year's squad, ranked No. 2 in the Preseason Coaches' Poll, and they delivered early in the season. MBU began the year 4-1, their lone defeat at the hands of No. 5 Siena Heights.
The Spartans would meet their first test of adversity on a road swing in late March. With a roster depleted by injuries, MBU dropped three in a row, capped off by a 13-12 double-overtime loss to St. Mary (Kan.).
The navy and white entered April with a 4-4 record. Fortunately, the best was yet to come. The Spartans returned home to Spartan Field and found their game. They knocked off No. 9 Ottawa and No. 4 Indiana Tech as part of a four-game winning streak to close the regular season.
Ranked No. 5 in the final Coaches' Poll, MBU headed back to Greenville, S.C. for the NAIA National Invitational. It was there that they met a familiar opponent. No. 4 Keiser University (Fla.) was responsible for kick starting the Spartans' four-game slide in March.
The Seahawks led by as many as five in the fourth quarter before the Spartans mounted a furious comeback. They trimmed the gap to one with just over two minutes to go but ultimately could not find the tying goal. A 13-11 defeat meant MBU's season was over in the National Quarterfinals for the second straight year.
With this year's roster consisting mostly of underclassmen, Head Coach Andy Joly has Missouri Baptist well stocked for another deep run in 2018. However, the loss of four seniors will certainly be significant. Among them, Midfielder Ben Eder and attacker Dan Mollet will be difficult to replace. Both played all four years for MBU and served as team captains in 2017. Mollet, in particular, finished his career with 100 goals, ranking him third all-time in MBU school history. The Spartans also lose two members of their defensive core with the departures of Lee Benson and Noel Blood.
The 2018 senior class will have a tough act to follow but the pieces appear to be in place to once again contend for a national title. Next year's class will be led by team captain and 2017 leading goal scorer, Austin Dahl. Dahl registered a team-high 36 goals in 2017 and was named an NAIA First Team All-American. The former graduate of Eureka High School will have the record books on watch next season as he currently sits fourth in career goals, third in career groundballs, and fifth in career assists.
With many of their core contributors returning, the Spartans will return next season armed with the experience of two straight trips to the National Quarterfinals. The arrow is definitely pointing up for Missouri Baptist Men's Lacrosse.