Moraga, Calif.- The daunting task of taking on three top 25 teams, two of them in the top 10, in six days had seemed to be taking its toll on the Saint Mary’s Lacrosse team. Saint Mary’s (5-2) ranked #11 in the nation invited #6 Westminster (5-0), #9 Concordia (7-0), and #22 Western Oregon (1-5) to break in their new field last week.
Both early games, against Westminster and Concordia, were exciting back and forth games. However, the Gaels still found themselves 0-2 on the week making the showdown with the Western Oregon Wolves all that more important. Western Oregon was the last ranked team remaining on their schedule and the Gaels would need another signature win to remain in the hunt for an At-Large bid to the MCLA National Tournament in Greenville, SC.
The Wolves, after losing to Concordia 15-3, also needed this win. Coming off of 4 consecutive PNCLL Championships, they began the season ranked #9 in the MCLA Preseason poll. After an early season thrashing of Central Washington, the Wolves traveled to Las Vegas to compete in the MCLA Full-House Faceoff where they would face #17 Cal State Fullerton, #6 Westminster, and #12 Grand Canyon. After dropping an 11-12 decision to Cal State Fullerton, the Wolves struggled and finished the weekend 0-3 and 1-3 overall. After the Concordia loss on Saturday, it appeared that the WOU-SMC game on Sunday could make or break both team’s season. And the game did not disappoint.
The game started slow as both teams settled in. Western Oregon struck first with a 1-0 lead. However goals by middies John Athens (2g) and Matthew Jaber (2g) put the Gaels up 2-1. The wolves would tie it at two but in the final seconds of the quarter Attackman Hayden Cook finds the back of the net to give the Gaels a 3-2 lead going into the break. The second quarter was all Saint Mary's. The defense held the dangerous WOU offense scoreless, while goals by Tom Gourhan, Dan Podesta, and John Athens put the Gaels up 6-2 at halftime.
The fatigue of playing three nationally ranked teams in five days seemed to show on both sides of the ball as the wolves fought back to within two by the end of the quarter.
The Wolves were able to hold the ball for the majority of the fourth quarter and it paid off. They trailed 8-7 by the final minute and, with 15 seconds left in the game, we're able to even the score and send the game into overtime.
In the overtime period the Gaels defense would be pushed to its limit. With the exception of an early man up opportunity, the ball was on the Saint Mary's end the entire period. Goalie James Plasencia (.619svp) had 13 saves on the game including 5 in overtime alone. The defensive performance against the Wolves’ biggest offensive weapons took the Gaels into a second overtime period.
As he had done all game, winning 9 of his 12 face-offs, Matthew Jaber opened the second OT with a face-off win and a fast break. On the break his shot was saved by the Western Oregon goalie, only to be scooped up and scored by Freshman Hayden Cook for his third goal of the day and the Gaels’ first win on their new field.
The Gaels are now 5-2 as they enter WCLL play. First on the conference slate is rival UC Santa Cruz at 6:00 pm on Saturday night.