GCU vs. ASU.
A marquee billing Grand Canyon playing Arizona State in sports is rare.
The universities are separated by 16 miles but lacrosse brings students and fans of each school to one venue annually. This time, “Date with the Devil V” comes to GCU Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday for a national top-10 clash. Admission is free with a crowd of about 3,000 people expected to attend.
Before GCU or ASU can think about conference and national championships this spring, earning state bragging rights can set that path on Friday night.
“The intensity comes just from an in-state rivalry,” GCU senior midfielder Lucas de Jong said. “Every time we play them, there’s always more fire. They don’t play us in NCAA basketball or any other sport so it gives us more intensity that we want to beat them. They are always one of our most attended events. Both teams travel well. The trash talking gets going. Some of their students get a little crazy but it makes for a good competition and it makes it more fun for us to play.”
GCU opened the rivalry with an overtime upset victory in 2013 and is 3-1 in the regular-season series, not including another Lopes win in the postseason. The Lopes won, 13-8, against ASU at home two years ago on the way to national championship and won, 17-12, last season at ASU.
This season, the Lopes (7-1) are ranked third nationally in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association’s Division I poll with ASU (7-4) ranking eighth.
“It’s a true cross-town rivalry,” said GCU coach Manny Rapkin, who grew up in New York near ASU coach Todd MacRobbie and played with him on postcollegiate club. “Every year, we’re playing to win the (Southwest Lacrosse Conference’s) Southern Division, which gets you a first-round bye in the conference tournament. But it’s a pride thing also.”
GCU (three) and ASU (two) account for the past five conference championships.
There is familiarity among players, many of whom grew up competing against each other in Arizona and California. The rivalry is the one game that GCU hosts in which the visiting team attract significant fan support too.
“It’s always been the rowdiest game of the year, minus our national championship game,” said GCU senior defender Brandon Suchand, who was goalkeeper for his first three ASU games with 14 saves in each meeting. “Just being 20 minutes away, it’s like a battle of the desert. We are always the type two programs in Arizona.
“For us, it’s a step-by-step process so this game is huge. We’ve got to be the best in the desert. Then, the best in the SLC. Then, the best in the nation. This is that first step of getting to that ultimate goal of a national championship.”
The Lopes have won four consecutive games this month by an average of 12 goals but they have not faced a team as highly ranked as the Sun Devils since the last time GCU played in the stadium. That visitor, No. 4 Brigham Young, handed GCU its only loss of the season and the Lopes long to give the student body a different stadium experience.
ASU and points leader Tommy Carrasco bring a five-game winning streak to GCU Stadium, where the Lopes also will play a week later against Arizona.
“It’s incredible that GCU is doing that for us,” Suchand said of playing in the 7-month-old stadium. “Hopefully, we can make some redemption from our last game in the stadium against BYU. I just want to get a ‘W’ in that soccer stadium. Last time, it did not end well and it left a really salty taste in our mouths.”