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GCU Women’s Lacrosse’s playoff hopes dashed in season finale

Women's lacrosse players picking up ball
April 10, 2019

Lopes unable to recover from slow start in 18-13 loss at Arizona Sunday

By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director

Playing their second opponent in a 43-hour span, the Grand Canyon University Women’s Lacrosse team couldn’t recover from a slow start and lost to the University of Arizona, 18-13, in its season finale Sunday night in Tucson.  The loss officially eliminated the Lopes from playoff consideration.  The defeat also extended the team’s losing streak to three games to end the season – two of them to the Wildcats.  

After a demoralizing 11-5 loss Friday night to Arizona State University in their home finale – in a game that saw the Lopes play their best half of lacrosse in the game’s first 30 minutes only to see a halftime lead disappear – it was evident from the opening face-off Sunday that sustaining a high adrenaline level was going to be a problem.

“Even from warmup, you could just tell they weren’t energetic,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Tracy Gallihugh.  “They weren’t talking a lot, and their movement was delayed.  That bled into the first half, since they struggled to go get the ball, and they were jogging back after goals.”

The Wildcats spent the night of March 29 on the GCU Stadium turf watching the Lopes enjoy Senior Night festivities, then spoiled the evening with a 22-11 defeat of GCU.  Sunday night, U of A spent its warmups concentrating on their own Senior Night festivities, but then channeled that emotion into an early lead they wouldn’t relinquish. 

“I was hoping that our team would be thinking revenge for our Senior Night loss,” Gallihugh said.  “(Our girls) even kept saying that, but you could tell early on that while we were saying it, we weren’t really putting it into action.”

The Wildcats took a 9-5 lead into the halftime locker room before the Lopes finally woke up, playing the second half nearly even with U of A.  Like they had throughout most of the 2019 campaign, Lopes’ freshman Emily Blankenburg (4 goals, 1 assists) and senior Lexi Ortt (3 goals, 1 assist) led the way offensively for GCU.  Fellow senior Taylor Lipinski ended her Lopes’ career with a pair of goals, and was matched by two goals from sophomore Bella Lardieri.  Pili Samante capped off her sophomore season in goal with 10 saves for GCU.

“I reminded them that we had so many freshmen on the team that we knew it was going to be a struggle for us early on,” Gallihugh said about her final postgame speech of the season.  “If we examined the changes between the team at the beginning and then the end of the season, we were totally different.  We came so far – both as a team and as a family.  They really seemed to enjoy playing with each other the last half of the season, and they should be proud of this year.”

The Lopes finish the year with a 3-9 record overall and a 1-4 mark in Western Women’s Lacrosse League play.