It was an achievement for the Grand Canyon University women’s lacrosse team to earn its first Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association national bid last year.
This time, they want to do more with a second shot at the WCLA Division II championship trophy.
The Lopes take a 12-0 record into the 12-team WCLA Division II National Championship tournament, which starts Thursday with pool play at Salt Lake City’s Regional Athletic Complex.
GCU, which finished in fourth place at last year’s event, is the No. 2 overall seed this year and will play two pool games Thursday. The Lopes open with seventh-seeded Providence (10-3) and then face 11th-seeded Utah State (6-5) at 1:30 p.m. If the Lopes win their pool, they will play a national semifinal game Friday at noon against the winner of a pool featuring third-ranked Loyola. GCU was edged 9-8 by Loyola in last year’s WCLA Division II third-place game.
The Lopes are the Division II tournament’s only undefeated team besides Vermont (7-0) but defending champion Denver (10-2) returns as this year’s top seed.
“I 100 percent believe these ladies can take home the national title this year,” GCU coach Tracy Gallihugh said. “They put so much blood, sweat and tears into this season and I cannot wait to see it pay off. They have all the potential, talent and passion in the world and that is exactly what drives them every day. It is now up to them to take advantage of this opportunity and win it all.”
GCU has not played a game since April 23, when it defended its Western Women’s Lacrosse League championship with a 12-9 victory against Concordia. Even with GCU classes ending last week, the Lopes players remained on campus for two-a-day practices in preparation for nationals.
Many of GCU’s top players return from last year’s team, including sophomore midfielder Bri Healy, junior attacker Kelsey Wood, sophomore midfielder Lexi Ortt and sophomore goalkeeper Caitlin Paine. Healy made the all-tournament team last year. Wood is GCU’s leading goal scorer this season with 4.25 goals per game, which ranked third in the WWLL. Ortt ranked third in the WWLL for points per game (5.67) by ranking sixth in goals and sixth in assists. Paine had the WWLL’s second-best goals against average this season for goalkeepers who played at least 10 games.
Saturday’s WCLA Division II championship game will be held at noon and live-streamed on www.coachesaid.com.