By: K.J. Wylie/GCU Staff
In a thrilling back-and-forth match Saturday at GCU Stadium, the Grand Canyon University Women’s Rugby rallied from deficits twice before their third rally fell short and dropped a 32-29 loss to the University of California – Santa Barbara. It was the first regular season loss for the Lopes in almost exactly two years, and snapped their 12-game winning streak in conference play.
In the first half, the UCSB Gauchos brought the energy early, jumping out to a quick 10-0 lead in the first nine minutes of the match, delivering the Lopes their largest deficit of the season.
GCU wasted little time battling back, scoring just over a minute later when Lopes’ back Taylor “Tita” Morasco brought life into the team and stadium by ripping off a 50-yard try to close the deficit to 10-7. GCU took its first lead seven minutes later when Lopes’ back Sara Lawson scored a try to give her team a 12-10 edge. GCU took what would prove to be its largest lead of the day with 15 minutes left before halftime on a try by forward Akanese Tito.
The Gauchos roared back to take the momentum back before the half, tying the match at 17 on a Lauren Thunen try, then regaining the lead in the final two minutes on Naomi Carrillo’s second score of the match to take a 22-17 lead into the break.
The Second Half
After both teams traded penalties with one another, Morasco made her presence felt once more with another long try at the 30 minute mark. Lopes’ back Nastasha Opoku’s successful conversion kick gave the Lopes the lead back, 24-22.
It would prove to be their last lead as UCSB once more responded in impressive fashion by scoring a pair of tries to extend their lead to 32-24 with just over 10 minutes left. Amberae Falemalu’s try in the final two minutes wasn’t enough for the Lopes to avoid their first defeat since February 18, 2017. Marasco led the Lopes with her two tries before suffering a neck injury midway through the second half.
The Lopes will close out the home side of their regular season schedule next Sunday, February 24 as they take on California State University Northridge. The match will be played at the GCU Practice Soccer field at 10 am.