The undefeated Chapman men’s lacrosse team took home the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference Championship May 1, after the Panthers rallied from a 12-8 second-half deficit to a 13-12 victory against Grand Canyon University with a game-winning goal from sophomore attacker Dylan Garner with 16 seconds left in the game. The win, which took place at La Costa Canyon High School in San Diego, secured that the Panthers will enter the DI national lacrosse championships as the No.1 seed.
“We were in a very similar situation against this team last year in the national tournament,” said junior defender Jeff Shriver. “Compared to last year we have a completely different mentality. Not once did I consider us losing. We had a great game plan and I knew once we were able to capitalize on that plan we would win.”
The victory earns top-ranked Chapman (18-0, 7-0) an automatic bid to the 2016 Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association National Championships that begin next week. Chapman will go into the tournament the top seed as they are ranked No. 1 in the association.
“We celebrated after the game during the trophy ceremony, but you could tell no one was completely satisfied. We know we have a tough road going into nationals,” Shriver said.
Senior attacker Steve Koressel and junior midfielder Richard “Brent” Melbye did not play in the game as they were suspended by Head Coach Dallas Hartley after their arrests in the involvement of the theft of Orange High School’s Tim the turkey.
The Panthers got off to a strong start in Sunday’s contest, leading 4-2 in the first quarter. Grand Canyon (10-4, 5-1) responded well though, scoring five straight goals and leading 8-5 at halftime.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Grand Canyon led 12-8. However, Chapman did not sway away from its game plan and completed the comeback behind Garner’s game-tying and game-winning goals.
The national tournament starts May 9, with first-round games, followed by the quarterfinals May 10 at the University of California, Irvine, then the semifinals May 12 and the championship game May 14 at Chapman.
This is Chapman’s ninth consecutive appearance at the national championships, but for the first time, the Panthers will go into the tournament as the top seed. Chapman will face No. 16 Purdue in the first round.
“Throughout the season we have taken it a game at a time, and that’s how we got to 18-0, so I think we will keep going with what we got,” Shriver said.