Jordan boys' lacrosse coach Michael Ricucci watched his team's 13-goal lead against Riverside melt down to a final score of 16-10 on Thursday night but there was no panic or anxiousness in the final quarter.
His calm demeanor stood in stark contrast to his antsy starters, who had been pulled in favor of letting the younger players on the field. Ricucci had a plan and he was sticking to it.
Ricucci could easily have had his team run up the score on Riverside but that's now his style. Yes, Jordan built a 10-3 lead at halftime and then early in the third quarter went up by 12 goals to start the running clock against Riverside. When that occurred, Ricucci started rotating his starters out of the game until they were all out by the start of the fourth quarter when it was 16-3.
Jordan's lead was big enough that Ricucci felt like he needed to see his younger players on the field. They needed the experience, he said. And they got it.
Ricucci played what amounted to his JV squad in the fourth quarter against Riverside because they needed to play. Because Riverside doesn't have a JV team, nor did New Bern, an earlier opponent during the week for Jordan, Ricucci saw this as an opportunity to grow his team for the future.
"It was an opportunity for the younger guys to get some experience," Ricucci said. "Some of the older players were getting anxious in the fourth quarter but I told them I wasn't worried about the score. It was more important to get them playing time."
Despite a slow start, Ricucci had seen enough from his starters against Riverside to know they were dialed in. Jared Halverson had five goals, while Tyler Thompson and Yasir Stroud had three each to lead the Falcons' dominating performance. Defensively, Jordan's starters were just as stifling, holding to Riverside to three goals through the first three quarters.
"I think we could have shot a little better in the first quarter early on," Ricucci said. "They were trying to be cute and doing silly things instead of executing what they were supposed to be running. Once they got into the flow six or seven minutes into the first quarter, I think we saw what our team does."
After Ricucci subbed his starters out, Riverside began matching up better. The Pirates took advantage to the tune of seven goals in the fourth quarter — enough to tighten up the final score but not enough to flip the outcome.
Jordan is well on its way to finishing with a winning record, which is something the Falcons last accomplished in 2014 when they went 8-6.
Jordan had not reached double digits in wins since 2011 and the Falcons have reached that plateau only on three other occasions in the last decade. Now they are closing in on a school record for wins in a season (13), which occurred in 2010 and 2011.
Last season Jordan went 5-14 against a schedule that was among the toughest in the state. Ricucci backed it off a bit this season but last season's lumps are paying off nicely now.
Jordan has six games remaining in the regular season and the competition will ramp up considerably for the Falcons. They play only two more games at home, beginning with Cardinal Gibbons on Tuesday. Jordan then visits East Chapel Hill on Thursday before Ricucci takes them on a long road trip to Maryland on April 15 for a couple of games where lacrosse is even bigger than here.
The last week of the regular season has them hosting Northern (April 18) and finishing out at Apex Friendship (April 21) before heading into the state playoffs.
"We've got a real tough week next week," Ricucci said. "We've got Gibbons and then we've got a war with East. We've been on the short end of the stick three straight years with them in one- or two-goal games. It hasn't bounced our way. And then we get a chance to play at a former school I coached at and their rival. It's a great opportunity for the kids to see somebody new and get that experience."