(by Jesse Vineyard)
What once was lost, now is found.
After a black and white first half, No. 2 Grand Canyon showed its true colors with a second half surge to run away from Sonoma State, 13-4, on Saturday afternoon at Prescott Field.
Even with just a 4-2 lead at the break, halftime adjustments were minimal in the locker room. A zone defense from the Seawolves wasn’t anything the Lopes haven’t seen, but was enough to keep GCU away from extended offensive sets.
Lopes’ coach Manny Rapkin didn’t feel wholesale adjustments were needed at halftime – he just wanted his team to play better.
“We were just impatient and impulsive in the first half,” Rapkin said. “In the second half, we started finding spaces in their zone. It took us 35 minutes to start getting the ball to those spots, but we finally did.”
Sonoma State cut the deficit in half with a goal two minutes into the third quarter, but the GCU offense – headlined by Cody Clark – began to put on their show midway into the quarter.
The Lopes started finding the soft spaces within the zone; quickly passing around from low to high in the box. Clark himself ran to those open spots and ended the drought with three goals in a minute and a half, the first coming at 6:31 left in the third.
Clark wasn’t finished as he helped on Cian Peterson’s seventh goal of the year at 2:21, and then took a quick pass from Peterson and cut into the middle of the box, ripping a shot for a 9-3 lead after three quarters.
“[Sonoma] came out ready to play and gave us a run for our money to start,” Clark said. “Then the third quarter came around and we started to kick it into gear and do what we do best, and that’s scores goals.”
Clark continued his theatrics as he added his sixth goal of the game in the fourth quarter – his first coming back in the opening quarter. Cooper Snowbarger bullied his way for two goals of his own in the fourth while Jack Lamey tallied the final goal for GCU.
A 12-shot first half by GCU was outdone with 20 shots in the second half.
A big reason for the second half output was an increase in intensity and more chances created from the faceoffs. The Lopes went a 5-of-8 in the faceoff circle in the first half, but outplayed the Seawolves for a 10-of-13 in the second.
“They’re an athletic, physical team,” Rapkin said. “You need to get the ball out of your stick quicker against teams like this. We didn’t do it for the first two quarters, but did much better in the third and the fourth.”
Cam Wengreniuk scored twice in the first half, upping his season total to 15 goals. Clark’s six goals gives him a team-leading 16.
Next up for the Lopes is a lengthy road trip to Colorado where they will match up with No. 5 Colorado and No. 23 Colorado State on March 22 and 24.
It is known the offense for the Lopes can be a problem for the opposition. The current issue, however, is keeping it consistent. From a player like Clark’s perspective, it’s not the game plan that needs to change, but rather the focus before the game that will give GCU the edge for all four quarters.
“It’s really just mentally preparing,” Clark said. “Today we didn’t do it, and to be able to do that every game you have to be ready the night before the game. These will be some big-time battles and we have to be ready as soon as the buzzer goes.”