OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — Austin Fitzpatrick got the NYIT men's lacrosse team on the scoreboard 3 minutes, 36 seconds into Saturday's season opener. And the eighth-ranked Bears never looked back, leading wire-to-wire in a convincing 16-9 win against No. 11 Mercyhurst at President's Stadium.
Andrew Zito produced five goals, LeRoy Halftown had four and Fitzpatrick three in the victory.
"It's great to get out there and get a good win in the first game," Zito said. "We're a young team. We've got to really show them who we are."
Said coach Bill Dunn: "We made a concerted effort to call our midfielders 'midfielders,' not specialize in offense or defense. You could see what happens. They were able to play both ends of the field and get up and down the field, resulting in goals for us. And having LeRoy and [Matt] Chanenchuk back, that really helps solidify our offense."
Goalie Jake Mellen, a transfer from Adelphi, made his NYIT debut and had 11 saves.
Shlomo Amar had a dominating performance with faceoffs as NYIT won 19 of 28 overall.
"Shlomo really worked hard thanks to coach Mike Cama, who came over to us this year," Dunn said. "And with Zito, Fitzpatrick and [Ian] Prate on the wings, if we can win faceoffs like we did today, we're going to be in good shape. It gives them less possessions and us more possessions."
The Bears won their fourth straight season opener.
NYIT had built a 9-2 lead by halftime — much to the delight of the reserves on the Bears' sideline. After goals, the spirited group performed assorted celebratory moves, including the worm and duck-duck-goose. They also recreated bowling pins falling.
The lead had swelled to 14-4 on Zito's fifth goal of the game, which came early in the fourth quarter. Mercyhurst then tallied four straight goals to somewhat tighten the game and prompt a timeout from NYIT with 5:13 remaining.
"I thought our guys came out with a lot of energy for three and a half quarters," Dunn said. "It seemed like we hit a brick wall come the fourth quarter."
NYIT, the reigning East Coast Conference champion, has aggressively upgraded its nonconference schedule this season in order to avoid a repeat of last year's NCAA Tournament snub. And things don't get easier after the win against No. 11 Mercyhurst.
Next up: The Bears face No. 2 Merrimack on Feb. 18 at President's Stadium. Then there's a trip to face No. 6 Tampa on Feb. 23.
"They're going to be real tough," Dunn said about Merrimack. "They lost in the national championship [game] last year. This was done intentionally. I want our guys to play the best competition that we can get. We're not going to back down from anyone, and we'll play anyplace, anytime, anywhere."