By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
At Santa Barbara, California, the Lopes’ defense stepped up and held the No. 14 California-Santa Barbara Gauchos in check, while the offense did their work to head back home with a 9-3 victory.
GCU is now 2-0 on the season. Dating back to last year, the Lopes have won 15 straight, including 11 in a row over ranked opponents.
“We wanted to get out and challenge them,” Lopes’ Head Coach Manny Rapkin said. “Overall, we played well and we were able to get the job done.”
Early on, both offenses had trouble getting the ball rolling. The first goal didn’t come until six minutes in when the Gauchos took advantage of GCU being a man down. GCU answered three minutes later via a Cody Clark snipe from the right side.
From that point forward, the defense for the Lopes made their presence felt. Playing more man-to-man coverage, GCU stacked the box to keep opportunities for the Gauchos to a minimum. In just his second career start, Lopes’ goaltender Brad Hookom delivered another strong performance with multiple point-blank saves. Hookom faced just 11 shots and made eight saves.
As the defense executed, the offense soon did their part. Clark added another at the end of the first, and two more in the second quarter where the Lopes tallied five total. Cam Wengreniuk, Cooper Snowbarger and Cam Welter each added themselves to the score sheet in the quarter to make it 7-2 at halftime.
GCU was held scoreless in the third as UCSB got one back, but the Lopes returned the favor in the final quarter, shutting out the Gauchos and receiving goals from Wengreniuk and Kyle Crews to close out the California sweep.
Clark finished with four goals to up his season total to seven, and Wengreniuk now has five total himself on the year. Cian Peterson contributed five assists.
“More guys got involved today, and that’s a good thing,” said Rapkin. “We don’t really care where we get our goals from. As long as we’re getting them in our system, it really doesn’t matter.”
The Lopes now return home with their 2-0 record to take on the University of Georgia, which has won their last two games after starting the season at 0-2. Despite the Bulldogs being unranked, Rapkin still believes UGA presents a solid early-season test. After traveling cross-country, he knows the Bulldogs will be ready to play, and his Lopes must be ready to match it.
“They’re a solid team,” Rapkin said. “Everyone is excited to come in here and play the reigning champions. They’re going to bring their A-game, and that will be a challenge for us.”
Game time is set for 7 pm Friday evening at GCU Stadium. The first 500 fans in attendance receive a pair of Lopes socks. Admission is free.