By: Natalie Van Dyke/ GCU Staff
Grand Canyon University Ultimate hosted the Canyon Classic on Saturday, and for the first time ever, they were able to take the big stage as they hosted in-state competition Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona and Arizona State University at GCU Stadium. The Lopes were 1-2 on the day but charted 31 goals and a sudden-death win.
GCU 13, NAU 12
The Lopes started off their day with a nailbiting 13-12 victory over NAU. With back-and-forth scoring, the game was tied 11 times, but the Lopes only had the lead 4 times throughout the game. After 90 minutes of regulation play, the game was tied 12-12, which sent the game into universe point – the equivalent to sudden death in Ultimate. The Lopes found themselves in the exact same situation they were in last year at the Canyon Classic against NAU, but fell short in a 13-12 loss.
To flip the script this time around, Lopes’ Student Coach/Team Captain Micah Gross found co-captain Aaron Nunn in the end zone for the winning goal to send GCU into a full-field celebration.
“To come back and get a win on universe point was pretty special,” said Gross. “All of the veterans remember that loss, so we talked about what needed to get done. It felt good to finish it out with a win.”
Gross led the team with six assists and 27 catches. Three of Gross’ assists were to co-captain Jacob VanGerpen, who led the team in scoring with four goals. Although the veteran players led on the stat sheet, they credit their freshmen teammates with the edge it took to get the win.
“Our sideline and rookies really showed up,” said VanGerpen. “In the past, we have had trouble getting people involved and being vocal. It was huge to have everyone contribute and to see everyone celebrate.”
Arizona 13, GCU 6
The next game didn’t go GCU’s way as they fell, 13-6, to Arizona in a disappointing loss. The Lopes fell behind, 5-0, in the first 10 minutes of the game, and never recovered. VanGerpen led the way with a pair of goals, while Max Lovrak played a crucial role with three defensive stops to allow the Lopes to play Arizona nearly even in the final 80 minutes.
“We made some pretty crucial mistakes (during) their first four goals,” said Gross. “There were a lot of mental errors that we need to hone in on to control the things we can control, but we saw incredible amounts of grit. Our rookies displayed again their commitment and dedication, and played gritty defense to give us chances to score.”
ASU 13, GCU 12
“After a disheartening loss to (Arizona), it was important to us to get out there and focus on taking care of the disc,” said Gross. “We know ASU well and were ready to get out there and redeem ourselves a little bit.”
While the Lopes weren’t able to finish the day with a win, they gave the fans a show with another one-point game. Neither team led by more than three, and the Lopes played most of the game point-to-point with the Sun Devils. Nunn led the team with five goals, and four different players provided the assists for Nunn’s scores. The Lopes narrowed the deficit to one in the final 60 seconds, but couldn’t fully close the gap.
“It was such a blessing that the university allowed us to play on such a big stage,” said VanGerpen. “Its huge to play for a university that is so dedicated to their club sports and spoiling us with great opportunities. Overall, the weekend was incredibly useful in giving us a picture of what our season will look like, giving us learning opportunities, and allowing us to set goals for a postseason run.”