STANFORD, Calif. – A team with championship aspirations uses the road schedule to form its mettle and embraces defense to win games.
Playing its third away game in five days, the third-ranked GCU men’s lacrosse team trounced Stanford, 17-6, on Saturday to complete a spring break road sweep.
GCU (7-1) controlled two top-25 teams before closing its break by turning up its defense again on the Stanford campus at Johnson Field. The Lopes outscored the Cardinal, 12-3, over the first three quarters and now are allowing only 7.4 goals per game this season.
“This is what good teams do,” GCU coach Manny Rapkin said. “They get on the road and take care of business. It’s a real achievement for our team.”
The Lopes traveled to Las Vegas and back to Phoenix after Tuesday’s win before leaving again on Thursday for northern California. GCU stretched its winning streak to four games by handling a slate of travel and opponents that made Lopes junior goalkeeper Alex Larson admittedly nervous.
“I didn’t know if the team would be as up as we usually would be for a home game but I can’t say enough about these guys,” Larson said. “These are my brothers. I’m so happy to be at GCU. They work so hard and I’m able to feed off their energy because of how hard they work.”
The Lopes only led 2-1 after a methodical first quarter that was highlighted by the first of senior attacker Joe Balestrieri’s game-high four goals and sophomore Cody Clark’s score off a 180-degree spin.
The Lopes’ attack piled on the scoring in the second quarter, taking a 7-2 lead with goals from junior Ryan McDonald going lefthanded for one and attacking the left side for another.
Eight Lopes players accounted for the first nine goals and a 5-0 Lopes third quarter put Stanford away early.
“All the little things that we’re trying to do, we did them well today on offense,” Rapkin said. “On the defensive side, we were able to defend all of their dangerous players.”
The Lopes have set a goal of keeping opponents to eight goals or fewer in each game. They hit it on each spring break stop.
“That’s what we work hard for and that’s what Coach Guy really hammers into us defensively in practice,” Larson said of GCU assistant coach and defensive coordinator Jeff Guy.
“Defensively, I think me, Nate (Smith), (Christian) Layne (Essex) and ‘Sush’ (Brandon Suchand) jell well together as a unit. I love the dynamic we have. That camaraderie helps us work.”
Eleven Lopes players scored and the defense kept Stanford to four goals until the closing minutes. The win gave GCU a third consecutive undefeated spring break trip.
“We buckled down for the road trip and then we put in effort,” GCU sophomore long-stick midfielder Jack Lamey said. “We focused off the field and I think that helped a lot to contribute to success on the field.
“We can see just down the road now – the tournament. It’s bringing focus to our players.”
The Lopes return to action Friday for “Date with the Devil V” against Arizona State at 7 p.m. in GCU Stadium.