by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
PHOENIX -- There are roughly 200 teams in the MCLA who would love to follow up a national championship with a run to the national semifinals as Grand Canyon did in the last two seasons.
Still, there seems to be an underlying sense of disappointment coming out of the desert about last spring, heightened by random -- and somewhat loaded -- retweets such as this from the @GCUlacrosse account.
"Mental toughness is doing the right thing for the team when it's not the best thing for you."
– Bill Belichick
— Coaching U (@Coaching_U) September 6, 2016
But a new day has dawned and the Lopes appear to have all of the talent needed to make a run at a second championship in three years.
Sure, they'll have to contend with the stacked SLC, but guys like Joe Balestrieri (who already has an NCAA D-III ring) and Cam Wengreniuk will make Grand Canyon favorites in most of the games on its schedule.
Team: Grand Canyon
2016 Record: 12-5 | National semifinalist
Conference record/finish: 4-0 | SLC finalist
Head Coach: Manny Rapkin (7th year)
Dean Fairall -- The Canadian finisher and second team All-American had another strong year (33g, 28a) and was a constant threat on the extra-man.
Drew Dziadyk -- Fairall's running-mate on attack, Dziadyk had the ability to create (36g, 10a) his own opportunities within the Lopes' offense. He was also tabbed second team All-American.
Tim Mahaney -- The number one cover guy on the Grand Canyon backline, Mahaney was a third team All-American. He gobbled up 27 ground balls in '16.
Joe Balestrieri -- The senior attackman was the leading scorer (56g, 31a) among Top 10 MCLA Division I programs, helping him earn first team All-American honors.
Cam Wengreniuk -- The middie exploded onto the scene in his rookie year, piling up 36 goals along with 17 dimes. He was tabbed a second team All-American after finishing second in the nation in scoring among midfielders.
Jordan Vicente -- He is a fantastic on-ball defensive middie (23 ground balls), but is also critical in the Lopes transition game and has the ability to be a threat on the break (2g, 3a).
Best moment of the 2016 season
The win in Provo against a very good BYU team after an 11-hour bus ride. Every player focused on doing their job and executing. Definitely our best moment.
Biggest challenge facing Grand Canyon in 2017
It will be responding to the challenge every week. Ten of our 11 games are against Top 25 teams
Why the Lopes will be better in 2017
If we learn from our failures last year. There is a lot to learn from our losses in the SLC championship game and the national semifinal.
We brought in our most athletic freshman class ever. Cooper Snowbarger, a big, talented midfielder, and Aidan Ryan, a defenseman, are freshman who have stood out. Talented goalies Brad Hookom and Rutgers transfer Alex Larson have created the most competition at that spot in our history. Midfielder Cody Clark returns from the 2015 championship team after a 41-point season with the Timberman of the British Columbia Jr. 'A' Lacrosse League.