By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
This is what regular seasons build toward. This is where the real fun begins.
Grand Canyon University Men’s Lacrosse begins postseason play this weekend at the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference Championship Tournament at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California. They will first take on Concordia University-Irvine Friday at 7:30 pm in the semifinal round. Preceding that in the other semifinal game, nationally-ranked No. 1 Chapman University will play Arizona State University in the afternoon matchup. The winners of the two games will move on to the championship round Sunday at 1:45 pm.
The seventh-ranked Lopes will be looking for their second straight conference title, and their third in the last four years. Much like in past years, the path to another SLC crown will be a difficult one as the SLC is routinely one of the more challenging conferences in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA). The last three national champions have come out of the SLC (GCU in 2017 and 2015, Chapman in 2016), while Arizona State made it to the national championship game in 2014, but lost to the University of Colorado. Since 2009 (the SLC’s inaugural season), it is also the only conference to have at least one semifinalist in the national tournament.
“The SLC has always been of the better conferences in the MCLA,” Lopes’ Assistant Coach Jeff Guy said. “If you look at the top four teams across all divisions, it might be the most competitive out of them all.”
The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic bid to the sixteen-team MCLA National Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah May 7-12.
Scouting the Eagles
The Concordia University-Irvine Eagles, ranked No. 9 in the country, come into the weekend on a hot streak, having won eight in a row. Standing with an overall record of 11-1, the Eagles moved into the semifinal round by defeating No. 21 University of California-Santa Barbara, 12-6, last Saturday in the quarterfinals.
The Eagles are defending national champions in their own right, winning the MCLA Division II title last season. They moved up to Division I this year after nine seasons at the DII level.
Irvine employs a balanced offense as they have five players with at least 20 goals. Brandon Mayo leads the team with 27 goals, while Sean Goodell is next with 24. Jackson Woodard is the lead helper on the team with 37 assists. Tyler Schweikert has manned the net all season and owns a .584 save percentage. Roman Smith, their faceoff specialist, is second in the SLC with 147 faceoff wins, five ahead of GCU’s Cole McLafferty.
This will be the first time the Lopes and Eagles will match up with each other since 2012 when the two were DII foes.
“Concordia has a lot of talented offensive players,” Lopes’ Head Coach Manny Rapkin said. “They shoot the ball really well, and are very disciplined on the ball. For us ourselves, we have to play disciplined and value the ball on offense. If we’re patient, we’ll get some good looks.”
This last week of practice will be all about the details and working out the finer points of the game plan for the weekend. Both Guy and Rapkin explained that even with another tough road to a championship lying ahead, confidence remains high for the team.
“This team just needs to go out and prove who they are,” Rapkin said. “We talked about that after the Arizona State game. Now it’s another big step up and another opportunity to prove themselves.”