By David Carter/GCU Club Sports Web Marketing Intern
“Hold them under ten or less goals. Score more than ten. That is what we did.”
Entering the game as heavy underdogs after losing the regular season matchup between the two teams, the 3rd-seeded GCU Men’s Lacrosse team followed Lopes’ Head Coach Manny Rapkin’s to perfection to pull off a stunning 12-10 victory over the 2nd-seeded University of Arizona Wildcats on a sunny 90-degree afternoon Saturday in Tucson in the first round of the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference (SLC) Playoffs. The win advances GCU (5-7 overall) to the semifinals Friday night in Carlsbad, California against Chapman University, the top seed from the SLC North Division, and the 5th-ranked team in the country.
The Lopes knew they could hold U of A to ten goals, since that’s what the Wildcats posted in a 10-3 victory over the Lopes at GCU Stadium in March. This time, however, the Lopes’ offense found its rhythm from the opening faceoff, and led from wire to wire.
“Scoring 12 or 13 goals was what it was going to take,” highlighted Rapkin. “We had really good matchups with their short-stick defensive middies. We were able to break down those matchups and create good offense off of that.”
GCU’s offense stayed consistent throughout the game, scoring three goals in each quarter. The Lopes came firing out of the gates, netting the three opening goals of the game, courtesy of attackmen Spencer Tate and Cody Clark, as well as midfielder Kyle Crews, and took a 3-1 edge after one quarter. The Lopes continued where they left off in the second quarter, getting scores from midfielders Ryan McDonald and Ayden Garwood to go along with Tate’s second of the day to lead, 6-3, at halftime.
After getting dominated in faceoffs and time of possession in the first 30 minutes, the Wildcats (8-5 overall) started to get more scoring chances in the second half. However, that didn’t stop the Lopes from again owning the early part of the half as Clark, Garwood and midfielder Cam Gilmore each scored to give the Lopes a 9-4 lead. Arizona finally woke up, putting their best offensive barrage of the game together, and scoring four straight (including two goals in the opening six minutes of the 4th quarter) to reduce the Lopes lead to 9-8.
However, that was the closest the Wildcats would get to either tying or taking the lead. McDonald, Gilmore, and Clark each scored in rapid succession for the Lopes to put the game out of reach and end UA’s season. Clark had a hat trick for GCU, while Tate, Gilmore, McDonald, and Garwood scored two goals each. Defensively, Lopes’ goalie Jamie McKay racked up nine saves to help GCU maintain a lead throughout the game.
It does not get any easier for the Lopes going forward, since GCU – who was ranked No. 21 on the latest Under Armour MCLA Coaches Poll rankings – is fully aware of what Chapman (13-2) can do.
“They are a powerhouse,” said Rapkin. “We are going to have to be our best. We are going to need to play better than we did today.”
The Lopes will take on Chapman on Friday, April 26 at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad at 6:45 pm.
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