by Max Freter | MCLA.us
Brigham Young stole the spotlight in the conference for the second straight week with another grueling weekend away from home. The Cougars, fresh off of a roller coaster trip in Las Vegas that featured both a stunning loss to UNLV and an upset of then-No. 1 Cal Poly in consecutive days, barely had time to unpack as they loaded up the buses again this past weekend.
This time it was their turn to duel with the best of the SLC in the desert with chance to dethrone another top-ranked team in the west for the second week in a row.
BYU started off the weekend against Arizona State on Saturday and followed the script that helped them take down Cal Poly the week before. The Cougars controlled the pace of the game on both ends and jumped out to a 4-1 advantage, led offensively by Harry Waddoups and stellar goaltending from rookie phenom Mason Moon.
Defense dominated the field for the remainder of the half with big saves from both goalies holding each team in check. The Sun Devils and Cougars traded a goal apiece in the closing seconds of the half to notch the score at 5-2. The defensive struggle would continue to start the second half as each team only mustered one goal in the third quarter.
Two BYU penalties in the fourth gave the Sun Devils some life as they came back to within one at 6-5, but Michael Perry scored back-to-back goals and Max Ash sealed the victory with a fast break tally late in the quarter that put the final score at 9-6.
Monday night featured the main event in Phoenix as BYU came in hoping to be the first to score a victory against No. 2 Grand Canyon.
The Lopes narrowly escaped defeat against Virginia Tech in double overtime just a few nights before and hoped to stay unbeaten against RMLC teams, but would not find the same fortune in front of a packed home crowd. The Cougars set the tempo with Conner Williams controlling the face off X from the opening whistle and fed off of a hat trick from Zach Labrum and another huge performance by Waddoups to complete the Arizona sweep with a 13-7 victory.
BYU coach Matt Schneck felt that the key to his team’s success on the weekend was their ability to dictate the pace of play.
“Last week we felt like we were taken out of our comfort zone,” Schneck said. “We had to play a game that wasn’t our style of lacrosse. Credit to our guys for being able to adapt, but this weekend I felt like we came out and played our game against two really good teams.”
Gophers and Aggies Give CU & CSU an Unexpected Test
Both Colorado teams returned home after facing the Arizona gauntlet that pushed both clubs to their limits early on in this young season.
The Rams and the Buffs hosted Texas A&M and Minnesota, two teams looking to turn heads and earn respect in their visit to Colorado. The four took the field on Friday night with CSU and TAMU squaring off in Loveland, Colo., while Colorado welcomed the Golden Gophers to Kittredge Field in Boulder. The Rams had no trouble with their first opponent as they posted a blowout win over the Aggies, 18-1.
Their rivals to the south had to withstand a few hay-makers from the Gophers in the first half before pulling away in an 18-12 final. Minnesota showed no signs of intimidation early on against the Buffaloes as they scored the opening goal on their first shot and peppered goaltender Jensen Makarov in the opening period. CU responded immediately by rattling off five straight, including a beauty around-the-world shot from Carter Esqueda, but the Gophers would retaliate with two straight of their own to make it 5-3 after a quarter.
The two would trade blows in the second until Colin MacIlvennie and Brock Neubauer took matters into their own hands and started another five goal run that would ultimately knock the momentum out of Minnesota. The half ended at 10-5 and wouldn’t get any closer until the closing minutes of the game.
The Buffs did give Minnesota plenty of chances to get back in it with a slew of penalties in the third quarter, but the Gopher EMO unit could not capitalize with an extra attacker.
Colorado followed up their win against Minnesota on Saturday with a blowout win of their own over Texas A&M, although it was a lot closer than expected through the first 30 minutes of play. The Aggies struck first in the midday matchup and were able to keep it close at 5-3 midway through the second quarter.
Buffalo penalties were once again the culprit in keeping their opponent within striking distance, not to mention uncharacteristic turnovers on missed passes and failed clears that gave the Aggies extra opportunities on offense. Makarov kept the A&M attack at bay and the combo of MacIlvennie and Ben Wharton eventually started clicking as the demolition began in the second half.
Colorado coach John Galvin explained that the weekend was a confidence booster for the offense after posting 38 goals in two games.
“I think this weekend was good for us and helped bring back some confidence,” Galvin said. “We shared the ball well offensively and created some really good looks against two quality teams. It’s not just one or two guys on this team; we want everyone to be a producer.”
Colorado State finished out the weekend hosting a Minnesota team that had one last shot at playing spoiler and gave it everything they had. The Gophers had a one-goal lead on CSU with under a minute in the game before Chase Warner and A.J. Stewart scored the final two goals to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, 9-8.
Once again, the Gophers were unfazed by the perennial powerhouse on their home turf and gave the shell-shocked Rams everything they could handle. The stout Ram defense that is considered the backbone of the team looked vulnerable in the first half, giving up five goals and 17 shots after two quarters of play.
The offense produced just three goals at the half and the makings of an upset were born. Unlike their game against Colorado on Friday, the intensity was not lost past the halftime break for the Gophers as they continued to put pressure on the Rams. Minnesota scored three more in the third period and took a four goal lead into the final period, but would not find the back of the net for the remainder of the game.
The CSU backline of Alec Geiser, Ryan Lampman and Peter Hull anchored down and kept the Gopher offense at bay, making way for the late game heroics of Warner and Stewart.
Colorado State coach Ted Fifield explained that the team may have underestimated the fight in the Gophers but knew that the team’s recent knack for playing in close games prepared them for the pressure situations.
“I'm not sure our players had mentally prepared themselves for the Gophers to play with that intensity,” Fifield said. “They put us on our heels from the opening possession, and it took us 59:58 to claw back to a lead. I'm proud of the spirit demonstrated by my players, particularly on Sunday. We will be focusing on fundamentals this week and putting our guys in pressure situations so they are better prepared when a team comes out with the same hunger and aggressiveness demonstrated by the Gophers this weekend.”