IRVINE, Calif. – It took a shot of adrenaline to jump-start defending champion Grand Canyon in its Division I opener at the 2016 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour, and it was No.14 Michigan State the pushed the needle.
The Spartans had the No.3 Lopes on the run for three quarters before GCU found its rhythm in the fourth, pulling away late for a 10-7 victory.
“Boy, they came out and played hard. They’re a well-coached team with a lot of tough kids,” said a relieved GCU coach Manny Rapkin. “First-round games are always scary.”
“We definitely had them on the ropes,” reflected first-year Michigan State coach Cam Holding. “Nobody had us picked and that’s what we wanted. We came out with a game plan and our team executed.”
Spartan midfielder Steve McKee scored his team’s first two goals and the competition was within one score throughout a defensive first half. MSU led the game 7-6 at the end of three quarters before the Lopes hit full stride.
“We just took care of business, figured it out and took care of business in the fourth quarter,” said Rapkin.
Senior attckman Joe Balestrerie ignited the Lopes when his fourth goal of the game early in the final period tied the game at seven. Two minutes later, Drew Dziadyk put GCU in front to stay taking a rebound off the Spartan goalie’s chest and stuffing it in for an unassisted score, his second of the game.
The Spartans continued on the attack but the Lopes defense was equal to the task. GCU midfielder Ryan McDonald sealed the victory with two goals down the stretch, including an empty netter in desperation time.
McDonald finished with three scores on the day. McKee and Charlie Pistner each scored twice for Michigan State.
“Going into that fourth quarter, they just kind of pulled away. They executed a couple more times,” Holding pointed out. “Yeah, it was tough, we just couldn’t finish it.”
“We just figured it out and took care of business in the fourth quarter,” added Rapkin.
Senior Ron Hamwey, who celebrated the national championship last year before graduating with a business degree, returned this season as an MBA student in order to repeat. Hamwey’s dominance from the faceoff X was the key to controlling the game down the stretch.
“It’s huge,” Rapkin pointed out. “We had 10 or 12 possessions more because of Ron. That’s a difference maker.”
So is getting a victory with a relatively young team, even if you’re the defending champs.
“We’ve got about four freshman on the field making big contributions,” Rapkin added, “and they now have a national championship game under their belts. That’s big.”
Chapman Breezes into the Quarterfinals
Chapman sophomore Dylan Garner scored six goals to lead the top-seeded Panthers to a comfortable, 14-2 victory over No. 16 Purdue (9-6) in the first round. With the victory, Chapman (19-0) will face the winner of the Arizona State-Colorado State contest on Tuesday in the quarterfinals.
The Panther defense was as dominant as the offense, holding the Boilermakers off the board in the first half. The lead ballooned to 13-0 in the third quarter before Purdue finally broke onto the scoreboard.
Junior middie Simon Jenkin and senior attackman Steve Koressel each added two goals in the winning effort. Purdue freshman goalie Lance Plonski made 12 saves in the losing cause.
Cal Poly Defense Confounds SMU
Sophomore attackman John Corbolotti netted a hat trick and the No. 2 Cal Poly defense was its usual stingy self as the Mustangs cruised to an 11-3 victory over No. 15 Southern Methodist (16-1) in the first round. Cal Poly (15-1) advances to the quarterfinals, where they will meet the winner of the Colorado-UC Santa Barbara tilt.
Cal Poly scored the first 10 goals of the game and still had a 10-0 bulge in the fourth quarter before SMU went on a mild finishing run. Cal Poly freshman attackman A.J. Guralas had a pair of goals along with another pair from freshman middie Patrick Schneider. Senior goalie Adam Connolly had 14 saves in net for SMU.
Defense Rules in Georgia Tech Win
In a grinding affair that has become a hallmark of Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets posted a 5-3 victory over California (10-7) to advance to the quarterfinals. The Ramblin’ Wreck will meet the winner of the Brigham Young-Oregon State clash.
Senior attackman Brian Connolly scored two goals to lead the Georgia Tech (15-0) offense while Matthew Sommerfeldt turned away 10 shots in goal. Sommerfeldt was aided by the defense in front of him that allowed the Golden Bears a total of 19 shots and shut Cal out for the final 15:05 of the contest.
Nate DeGroat led the way for the Bears with a hat trick and Bert Schmickel made 13 saves.