PETALUMA, Calif. – The GCU men’s lacrosse team crossed the scenery of the Golden Gate Bridge, bussed through a rainstorm and pulled into a field surrounded by a vineyard, golf course and lush hills.
Amid the serenity, the Lopes were met with a helmet-jarring, body-checking experience but wound up in a pleasant destination – victory.
The third-ranked Lopes stepped up to the challenge Friday to dominate No. 25 Sonoma State in a physical 17-8 win. GCU (6-1) recorded its second road win against a ranked team this week.
“I found it more physical than usual for sure,” said GCU sophomore attacker Cam Wengreniuk, who scored a team-high six goals. “You certainly had to keep your head up. But we have to take a hit to make a play, right? It helped us out in certain ways. I enjoy it for sure. I’m a box player so I like contact.”
The Lopes were challenged early when Sonoma State cut their lead to 3-2 before senior midfielder Austin Ekeroth created separation with back-to-back goals, including a straightway, 8-meter shot that he bounced into the net.
That started a 7-1 GCU run that was capped by sophomore attacker Cody Clark’s point-blank finish off Wengreniuk’s assist and sophomore midfielder Anthony Hughes’ transition push.
In the second half, the Lopes rattled off five unanswered goals with three coming from Wengreniuk to bury Sonoma State with a 16-6 lead.
“I was happy with all facets of the game in spurts,” GCU coach Manny Rapkin said. “We still made a lot of mistakes but the goaltending (of junior Alex Larson) was good again today and that was big. It’s been a constant.”
Rapkin was most happy with the Lopes’ transition play and most of the face-off work. The game opened with a Sonoma State procedure penalty, setting up sophomore Jordan Vicente to streak downfield and score in the first seven seconds. He scored again later in transition.
“We’ve been waiting for him to break out in transition and get some stuff going for us,” Rapkin said. “He shot the ball real well.”
Ekeroth (three) and senior attacker Joe Balestrieri (two) were also multiple-goal scorers in a rough game with eight Lopes scoring.
“It was definitely a different game that we’re used to,” Ekeroth said. “We got off to a rough start and got a little impatient. Toward the second quarter, we started being patient and the offense was flowing and we came together as a team.
“We know we can score every time. It’s all about the best shot, not the first shot.”
The Lopes return to action Saturday with a 3 p.m. game at Stanford.