By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
There are 170 teams in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association Division I. At the end of the season, only 16 have a chance at adding another name to end of theirs – National Champions.
The road to another title won’t be easy, however, when the 10th-seeded Lopes play their first-round game Monday evening at 6:15 pm Arizona time against the No. 7 Brigham Young University Cougars. The winner will move on to the quarterfinals to play either No. 2 University of Utah or No. 15 Texas A&M, Tuesday at 3 pm.
“I think we’re in the toughest bracket,” Lopes’ Head Coach Manny Rapkin said. “With BYU and Utah, this is a tough bracket. These are physical teams that defend well and generate lots of offense.”
Historically, 10th-seeds have found a measure of success versus No. 7 seeds. All-time, No. 10 teams are 7-12 against the seventh-seeded team. The winning percentage of .368 is second-highest amongst all the lower seeds, one behind No. 9 which owns a 12-7 record (.631%) over its eighth-seeded rival.
Side note: Since the MCLA expanded to the current 16-team field in 2001, never has a 16-seed, nor a 15-seed, won. The lowest seed to ever win its first-round game was No. 14 Virginia Tech over No. 3 BYU, 11-6, in 2014.
Scouting the Cougars
Like the Lopes, BYU secured one of the four at-large bids to the national tournament. Coming out of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference, the Cougars enter the field with a record of 14-3 and 1-2 in their last three games, including a first-round overtime loss to the University of Colorado in the RMLC Tournament.
Defense is where both teams shine as BYU allows just eight goals per game and GCU allows just seven, but the Lopes will be facing an offense that averages over 14 goals and 44 shots per game. The Cougars have four players with over 30 goals this season, led by Winston Farley with 38. Chandler Wescott and Harry Waddoups, who has 35 and 32 goals respectively, also lead in assists with 24 and 23. In goal, Dalon Hampshire has played in all but two games this season and holds a goals-against-average of 7.51.
BYU and GCU had three common opponents during the regular season. BYU opened the season against the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with a 19-11 win, and later in the year won back-to-back games over Colorado and Colorado State, 14-12 and 15-6.
“They play a similar style as us,” Rapkin said. “They’re an up-tempo team that try and get the ball upfield quickly. They always have the athletes and talent.”
The Cougars arguably have the largest history at the MCLA National Championships. They have never missed a national tournament since it began in 1997 – the only team to do so – and are second all-time with four national championships, two behind Colorado State. They have the most tournament wins ever with 39, and never been seeded lower than eighth. BYU also holds five No. 1 seeds throughout their history, tied for most with the University of Michigan.
“They’re a top-five, top-10 team every year,” Rapkin said. “They return to the tournament every year, and do it coming out of one of the toughest conferences. They’re a good team.”
GCU National Tournament History
The Lopes own a short but strong history themselves at the national tournament. This will be their fifth appearance at the Division I tournament. Their first time came in 2013 as the No. 13 seed, losing in the first round to No. 4 BYU, 17-8. They returned in 2015 where they won their first of two national titles, beating Colorado, 9-8, in the championship game.
GCU’s first-ever tournament came in 2012 as a DII team. There, the Lopes entered as the No. 10 seed and defeated No. 7 Savannah College of Art and Design, 6-5, in overtime. GCU lost in the next round, 10-8, to No. 2 seed and eventual national runner-up Grand Valley State.
GCU has an all-time DI national tournament record of 10-2 – good for the highest winning percentage at .831.