By: Taylor Browne/GCU Staff
Photo Credit: Jeff Dalton
Never give up – regardless of the score.
The Grand Canyon University Women’s Rugby team took down University of California, San Diego, 28-17, and University of California, Los Angeles, 17-15, in San Diego in the span of just 27 hours this weekend. Fighting through their fair share of adversity and a shortage of players, the Lopes improved to 5-2-1 overall record in the season.
Saturday: GCU 28, UCSD 17
On Saturday, the Lopes went into halftime trailing the Tritons, 17-0, before imposing their will in a dominant second-half showing. The Lopes controlled play, using four consecutive tries and two-point conversions to pull away with the win.
“The girls came into the game very calm and collected,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Lindsey Mahoney. “Even with an injury that set us back, we were able to come together and score three tries in the last twelve minutes.”
The scoring outburst began with Lopes’ Amberae Falemalu’s try 12 minutes into the second half. Tries from Amanda Garcia and Tita Marasco gave the Lopes the lead for good, 19-17, before Marasco scored again, and GCU’s Heather Thomas capped the scoring frenzy with her fourth successful two-point conversion.
“It was a bit unexpected,” said Mahoney. “The girls played with more confidence in the second half. We were close to scoring the entire time, and finally were able to capitalize and play more to our style.”
Sunday: GCU 17, UCLA 15
Still shorthanded a day later, the Lopes continued their outstanding performance against UCLA in a back-and-forth match Sunday.
“It can be rough playing back-to-back for a full 80 minutes,” said Mahoney. “We came into the second game with 21 players and not a lot of recovery time. As a coaching staff, we didn’t know which way the game would swing.”
The Lopes’ Jaime Massey got GCU on the board with a try (but with an unsuccessful two-point conversion) to take a 5-0 lead. The Bruins battled back to take a 12-5 lead with a pair of tries of their own (and a successful conversion). Massey was far from done, though, scoring another try (with a successful Heather Thomas two-point conversion) right before halftime to tie it at 12-12. Then, after a GCU yellow card allowed the Bruins to take a 15-12 lead midway through the second half with a penalty kick, Massey crossed the try line a third time with 10 minutes remaining for the game-winner.
“It was back-and-forth the entire game,” said Mahoney. “At the end, we kept putting pressure on UCLA, which allowed us to score a last try to win the game.”
It was the Lopes’ fourth straight victory over the Bruins, including defeating them twice last year.
“We are finally building continuity together,” said Mahoney. “We are meshing as a team and becoming more of a unit. This builds a better flow and confidence going into these types of games.”
With a weekend victory, the Lopes are preparing for the Pacific Desert Rugby Conference (PDRC) Playoffs on April 4 in Tucson.
“We will see UCLA very soon,” said Mahoney. “They gave us one of the best fights we’ve seen all season, and I’m excited to see that again. It will be a good matchup for our first game of playoffs.”