Current players grab early lead, top Alumni 18-10
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
It’s an annual showdown packed with memories, laughs, hugs… and more than a few friendly checks to the ribcage.
Above all, the Grand Canyon University Men’s Lacrosse Alumni Game is a stark reminder of how far the program has come, who helped pave the way and the expectations associated with donning the purple and white.
This year’s GCU young guns were as sharp as they were speedy, racing out to an early 4-0 lead before ultimately taking the game over the alumni by a final of 18-10 Friday night under the bright lights of Prescott Field. The current squad never trailed, and led 10-4 at the half.
But the scoreboard was irrelevant on this night. This was about more than a game. This was about family.
“This is a special day of the year for all of us,” said Lopes’ Interim Head Coach Jeff Guy. “It’s great to see everybody again, and reconnect with guys who have made such an impact on this program. Every one of them helped establish the foundation here, and they know what it takes to win because they’ve done it. It’s great having them come back to connect with our current players and share their experiences.”
Winning. The alumni have certainly done plenty of that.
Formerly a Division II program, the Lopes have captured two Division I National Championships in the last four years. Many members of the famed 2015 and 2017 title teams returned to their old stomping grounds to suit up one more time.
Tate Linford was among that crop. The Lopes’ former standout midfielder helped deliver a national championship as a senior in 2015 before serving the program as a volunteer coach. He has watched the lacrosse program, and the Phoenix-based campus, blossom over the years.
“It’s surreal,” Linford said simply. “I think the best part of coming back is being around the guys you built such tight relationships with. A lot of guys go their separate ways when they get done here. Bringing everybody together again is a lot of fun.
“When I started here in 2011, there were 3,500 kids on campus,” Linford added. “It’s neat to see how far the school has come from 3,500 kids to over 20,000 now.”
Also making his way back to campus was Jack Lamey, who needs no introduction around Prescott Field. A 2018 graduate, Lamey was a dynamic long-stick midfielder and a co-captain on GCU’s 2017 title-winning team. During his three campaigns, Lamey totaled 128 ground balls and 10 goals while earning multiple individual awards, including the prestigious Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Conference (MCLA) Godekeraw Award.
He leads a different crew now, working as a flight instructor in Mesa.
“I tell you what, those guys (current players) are tough,” Lamey said with a smile. “They give us a run for our money every year. It’s great to come back here and see all the old faces, and see how this year’s team looks as well.”
The respect is mutual on the part of the current players, some of whom have only heard stories of past GCU legends.
“It’s great for the underclassmen to meet some of these older guys and learn a little bit about where the program came from,” said Lopes senior Aidan Ryan. “It’s always fun to get out here with the alumni. I won a national championship in 2017 with some of them, so it’s always special to see them and play against them.
“It really is a family here,” Ryan added. “We’ve all put blood, sweat and tears into this program. Relationships are built out here that will last a lifetime.”
When the final horn sounded on the 2019 Alumni Game, players on both sides removed their helmets, shook hands and posed for pictures together. It was a fitting way to celebrate a program that prides itself on camaraderie and culture.
“We’ve made it into a family here,” Linford said. “We’ve made it about each other rather than just ourselves as individuals. I think that’s what has allowed the program to continuously grow and become the powerhouse that it is today.”
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