By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
When you’re the defending national champions with a No. 1 ranking attached to your name, nothing should ever be expected.
Not even a tying goal from the other team at the buzzer, but you still end up winning it seconds into overtime.
It certainly wasn’t planned this way, but Grand Canyon University Men’s Lacrosse escaped out of San Luis Obispo, California with an 8-7 victory in overtime over the No. 11 Cal Poly Mustangs, opening the season at 1-0, and extending their win streak to 14 games dating back to last season.
GCU quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, but the back-and-forth game continued all the way to the final possession for Cal Poly. Leading 7-6 with a minute left, GCU was forced into a turnover and gave the ball up to the Mustangs. With four seconds left, Cal Poly restarted possession after a missed shot and hurried on net. Cal Poly’s Doug Gosselin quickly received a pass at the right edge of the crease and bounced in a shot just as time expired.
Spending no time hanging their heads, GCU ended it quickly in overtime. Cole McLafferty won the faceoff and immediately pushed the play into the offensive zone. After patiently moving the ball around the top of the box, the Lopes’ Cam Wengreniuk took advantage of space in the middle of the field, stepped into his defender, and rifled a shot into the net for the game-winner.
“We’re happy with wins any way we can get them, but we have a lot of room for improvement,” Lopes’ Head Coach Manny Rapkin said.
The up-and-down contest really started in the second quarter when the 3-0 first-quarter lead evaporated with three straight Cal Poly goals. Cody Clark gave GCU the lead before the half, but the advantage wouldn’t stand for long as the Mustangs scored twice in the third to take a 5-4 lead. Jordan Vicente would score his first of the year toward the end of the quarter to tie the game back up at 5.
Clark netted three goals in the game, including one in the final quarter that put GCU up, 7-6, minutes before Cal Poly’s final goal. Including the game-winner, Wengreniuk tallied two others to join Clark with a hat trick. The Lopes received a big performance in net from Brad Hookom, who made 11 saves overall, many of which were close to the crease.
GCU now has No. 14 California-Santa Barbara Sunday at 1 pm Arizona time. The quick turnaround doesn’t give much time to prepare for it, and Rapkin knows there is still plenty to be worked on.
“We have to take better care of the ball,” Rapkin said. “It’s going to be another low possession game, and our guys on offense have to start understanding that to make the most out of each one. Santa Barbara is a totally different kind of defense, so it will be a different challenge for us.”