By DAVID CRIM TOWER staff writer
Bethany College of Bethany, West Virginia and Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio faced off in the first official Blue Bridge Rivalry game on Wednesday, March 21st. You might ask how this rivalry came about, although Franciscan is a part of the AMCC (Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference) and Bethany is in the ORLC (Ohio River Lacrosse Conference), both schools are within a forty minute drive of one another. The newly claimed rivalries name comes from the Blue Market Street Bridge, which connects Brooke County (WV) and Steubenville (OH). After playing each other for the past several years, both teams thought it was only right to make the rivalry official. Considering it’s almost always a close match up between the two teams, and with both teams joining the PAC (President’s Athletic Conference) officially in 2019 made the decision that much easier to make.
The first official rivalry game between the two teams ended up in a victory for Bethany College winning 15-13. The battle for ground balls and faceoffs was the biggest key factor in the game for the Bison to come out victorious. Although both teams were close in shooting percentage; Franciscan being 13/46 and the Bison only 15/47 on the night, Bethany won the groundball battle with forty-nine on the night and Franciscan only had thirty-three during the contest. Face-offs were where Bethany had the advantage between both teams; they won twenty-four total draws opposed to Franciscan’s seven.
There were a lot of key players in the win against Franciscan for the Bison, including freshman midfielder Nick Melita who scored two goals and was 7-9 on face-offs. Then there was Will Gatling who knocked in four goals on the night with two assists. On the defensive side of the ball Sean Rhodes, Bethany’s goalie, had fifteen saves on twenty-eight attempts during the match on Wednesday night. The biggest factor of the game came from a statistical outburst from Bryan Uth, he scored five goals on nine attempts and was 17-21 on face-off’s which helped set him up to have eighteen ground balls during the rivalry game which was a record high for him. This was not the first time Uth had encountered a scoring spurt this season, against La Roche he accounted for six goals, two assists, and was 7-15 on face-off’s that game, showing that he has been a key player for the Bison this season and a vital component to their offense.
After the event was finished, a post-game interview was conducted with senior Bryan Uth, where he gave provided insight on how he performed so well and how the Bethany Bison overcame the Barons of Franciscan.
Tower Staff: What was the key to your success tonight on the offensive side of the ball?
Bryan Uth: I have been working very hard on my on the run shooting. If I could get a step on my defender I knew my hands would be free for the shot coming down the alley.
TS: You were 17/21 on face-off’s which helped lead you to 18 ground balls on the night. How did you stay so focused and hungry to win the battle on the ground in tonight’s matchup?
BU: Our intensity as a whole was at an all-time high tonight. Everyone was hyping each other up, and that kind of energy level helped me to do what I’m supposed to at the face-off position.
TS: This was the first official Blue Bridge Rivalry game between Bethany College and Franciscan University. How did it feel to have that first victory in the rivalry matchup?
BU: It is an awesome feeling, as a senior, to go out on top in the first official rivalry with Franciscan. I hope this specific game evolves into something special for both programs, and fans in the future.
TS: Your team outscored Franciscan 9-6 in the first half, your team was then outscored by them in the second half 7-6. How did you and your team manage to overcome this and pull out the memorable win at the end of the day?
BU: We really wanted to emphasize exploiting their late defensive slides. As long as we were drawing contact with one defenseman, we would be able to keep the ball hot and find the open man on the backside for a shot. Also, we had to match their intensity level, because they hung in there with us until the very last whistle.
From now on when these teams meet in the future, it will not only be a classic rivalry game, it will be a competitive hard fought conference game. The Bison will play their next ORLC game this Saturday, March 24th at Washington and Jefferson College.