There was joy and dismay for Grand Canyon University rugby on the same field Sunday afternoon in Bellingham, Wash.
Not long after the Lopes’ first-year women’s program advanced to the Division II national semifinals with their second weekend win, the GCU men’s team followed a dramatic Division I-AA quarterfinal win with a season-ending semifinal loss Sunday.
The Lopes women’s team, coached by Alison Price and Daniela Mogro, thumped host Western Washington, 29-5, on Saturday and then rallied to beat Fresno State, 36-28, in Sunday’s semifinal. GCU trailed 14-0 at the half and had a narrow 29-28 lead until a victory-cinching try by sophomore Jasmine Fifer in the closing minutes.
“We marched down the field with a lot of good phases,” Price said. “The backs were involved. The forwards were involved. It was a team effort and Jasmine was able to push it in.”
The GCU women advance to face Tulane in a national semifinal game on April 22 at Stanford. The winner of that game will play the winner of the other semifinal (California-Irvine vs. Kennesaw State) for the spring championship.
GCU’s Daeanera Tuaua and Sara Lawson also helped lead the Lopes on a group effort that national team scouts noted to Price and Mogro. Many of the Lopes players are in their first year of participation in the sport.
“I was absolutely blown away because we haven’t seen any of this other competition,” Price said. “We’ve been extremely pleased with the girls. Their learning curve and their ability to advance so quickly has been tremendous.”
The men’s team rode the momentum of a regular-season Gold Coast Conference championship to open the West Regional with a 17-14 victory against host Western Washington. The Lopes took a late lead when Maceo Brown took the ball at midfield after a scrum and set up a two-on-one try finish for Brent Williams and Dru Pelter.
Western Washington moved the ball downfield with a chance to win until the Lopes came up with a goal-line stop, keyed by captain Darien Pickett and Josh Ransom, just before time expired.
The victory put the GCU men’s team in a semifinal game Sunday against two-time defending champion California-Davis. The Lopes dug a 23-5 halftime hole before rallying to a 23-17 deficit off tries by Brown and Brandon Curle but could not complete the rally.
“I’m really proud of the boys’ efforts because they were up against it with the weather but they dug in and got the first win,” GCU men’s rugby coach Cameron Wyper said. “They showed plenty of heart and determination. In the second match, I think we did get some tough calls. Especially against a team like UC-Davis, you can’t afford to be down in the penalty. They took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t.”
The GCU men’s team went 5-0 in conference play and reached the national semifinals as a third-year program.
“As a whole, I’m super-proud of where the boys came from this season,” Wyper said. “Most of all, we showed that we can be competitive against the best teams in the nation.”