The number 14 will from now on have a special special meaning for the Jordan boys’ lacrosse team.
It is the number of wins the Falcons registered during the season – more than Jordan has won in almost a decade. Their previous high was 13 victories during the 2011 season.
It also was the number of goals the Falcons scored in their N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoff victory at New Bern last Saturday to earn them their 14th win.
“Getting that win was big,” Falcons’ coach Michael Ricucci said. “It was win No. 14. His number was 14. We scored 14 goals. Everything seemed to click. We needed that.”
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Unfortunately, there wasn’t a 15th victory for Jordan as the Falcons fell to Cardinal Gibbons 18-5 in the third round of the playoffs on Tuesday.
But the most important reason 14 will be significant at Jordan is that it was the number worn by sophomore Trey Ennis, who died on May 2 after battling leukemia for almost a year.
Ennis, who was 15, was not able to play this season as his health declined, but he played as a freshman and had a huge impact on Ricucci.
Throughout the season, Ricucci said the team had visited Ennis periodically. The field at Jordan also was adorned with Ennis’ number and the team carried a flag embroidered with his number to each match.
Prior to the contest with Crusaders, both teams gathered at midfield as Cardinal Gibbons sports information director Alex Bass read a tribute to Ennis and then offered a prayer in his honor.
“I was sobbing like a baby when they were reading about Trey and going into the prayer,” Ricucci said. “It hit us hard last Tuesday when I told the team that Trey had lost the fight.”
The game at Cardinal Gibbons was the culmination of whirlwind week of emotions, according to Ricucci.
Jordan had a first-round bye in the playoffs and so their its game at New Bern came on Saturday, the day after Ennis’ funeral, which the team attended as a group.
Ricucci said he was worried about how the team would play in that game but his fears quickly vanished. Jordan jumped out to a 7-1 lead at halftime and then went on to win 14-7.
“We showed up and blew the doors off,” Ricucci said. “These guys showed a lot with Trey’s passing. The adversity weighed heavily on us and it will continue to for some time.”
On Tuesday, Jordan had almost nothing left in the tank emotionally.
Jordan wasn’t able to upset the three-time defending champion Crusaders, who were led by Zach Niemi with six goals. But there were plenty of good memories for Ricucci.
“Last year we were 5-14 and we completely reversed it this year,” Ricucci said. “We’ve built a culture where our kids expect to be successful. They’re starting to see that it is more than just a spring sport. It’s year-round. You’ve got to play in the offseason and that’s what set you up to be successful in the spring.”
Jordan lost only once in the conference, which also was to Cardinal Gibbons.
“We were able to win a playoff game for the first time in three years,” Ricucci said. “I think we’ve had a good run this year, but we’re just not at their level, yet.
“We finally got out of the second round for the first time in my three years here. It’s progress. We’re moving forward. We’re starting to put our mark on things and establish ourselves as a good program. That’s our ultimate goal. We want to get up to the top and it takes time to do it.”