By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Never mind what you saw in the last two games. This is the true Grand Canyon University Men’s Lacrosse team.
GCU (7-2) used effort, desire and a strong second half to rediscover its form with a resounding 16-9 victory over 16th-ranked Arizona State University (6-7) at the ASU West campus in Glendale Saturday afternoon.
“Every year, you have to discover who you are,” Lopes’ Head Coach Manny Rapkin said. “It happens through experience, and finding the things that make this team go, and we found that out today.”
The third quarter has been a strength for the 6th-ranked Lopes all season. Coming into Saturday’s tilt, GCU had outscored their opponents, 26-10, in the third. That theme continued against ASU as the Lopes broke a 5-5 halftime tie with four goals to ASU’s one in the third. Kyle Crews, Cian Peterson and Cam Wengreniuk all scored in a three-goal spurt through the first eight minutes of the quarter that put GCU on top for good. ASU’s Patrick Haviland cut the lead to two with 5:08 left in the quarter, but that would be the closest ASU would get the rest of the way.
Logan Phillips ducked underneath a defender to push the lead back to three with 2:12 left in the third, then Kyle Crews and Jack Lamey each scored in the first minute of the fourth to bring the lead to 11-6. Ryan Bradway got one back for the Sun Devils three minutes after Lamey’s goal, but hustle and desire earned the Lopes another three-goal run midway into the quarter.
Wengreniuk finished off a hustle play by Jack Lamey who ran to the sideline to gain possession at 8:11, then Phillips – off a bounce pass from Peterson – and Weston Gotuzzo – off a battle for a groundball – scored 24 seconds apart with under five minutes remaining to give the Lopes a 14-7 lead.
GCU had been outscored, 11-2, in the fourth over the last two games, but rebounded to outscore ASU, 7-3, in the final frame.
“The offense played their best game of the year,” Rapkin said. “Defense started out slow, but made up for it in the transition game. Our guys get after it, they work hard, and when it’s 90 degrees outside, you can see the difference.”
The transition game that Rapkin spoke of was a key reason for the victory. Five of GCU’s 16 goals were scored in transition, and Jordan Vicente, a defensive midfielder, had two of them for the Lopes.
“Our transition offense is one of our biggest factors this year,” Vicente said. “As you saw today, each one of our defensive midfielders scored a goal. We did what we needed to do to get the job done.”
GCU has now won seven straight over ASU – with the last loss to the Sun Devils happening in 2014.
Cody Clark netted four goals to raise his team-leading season total to 27. Wengreniuk, Phillips and Peterson each had two for the Lopes.
Neither team led by more than one goal in the first half which was knotted, 5-5, at halftime. GCU had three separate one-goal deficits in the first quarter alone, but scored on their next possessions to tie up the game each time.
With the rediscovered form, the Lopes now hope to continue their play into next Saturday’s game in Tucson against the University of Arizona.
“As far as discipline and decision-making, this was our best day so far,” Rapkin said. “But we can get better. Now that we have gotten to this point, the sky is the limit.”