Ashland, Ore- As the Saint Mary’s Lacrosse team walked off the Southern Oregon University field on Sunday they were celebrating much more than a 15-12 win over a tough SOU Raider team. The Gaels are coming off back to back Western Collegiate Lacrosse League championships, they are ranked 11th in the nation in the latest Nike/Inside Lacrosse Division II coaches poll, and, with a 4-0 record, they’re off to the best start since 1990.
The Gaels began the season with a trip to Southern California for the season opener against Cal Lutheran and a Friday night showdown with #14 Cal State Fullerton. The game against CLU proved to be little more than a tune up game for the Gaels as they controlled every aspect of the contest cruising to a 19-1 victory. Senior Attackman Christian Skuce (4g,4a) led a group of twelve different Gaels who registered points against the Kingsmen. Freshmen Hayden Cook (3g,1a), Tommy Cummings (2g,1a), John Athens (1g), and Nicolaas Vanderklugt (1g) all registered their first career points.
While their first game was an offensive showcase, the Gaels’ second game would reveal a staunch defense as they withstood the high powered offense of #14 Cal State Fullerton. Saint Mary’s was 0-2 against the Titans. Most recently falling in Moraga in 2011 by a score of 14-5, largely due to the 5-goal performance of Titan All American midfielder Chris Cole. This year Cole is joined by his younger brother Cameron, a high school all American, adding yet another powerful weapon to this potent offense. However, the Saint Mary’s defense was up to the challenge holding the Cole brothers to only 4 goals between them. Senior defenseman Alex Starr, brothers Joe and John Rosa, and Senior LSM Basilios Sotiropulos anchored the defense that would only give up seven points to the dangerous Fullerton offense. Goalie James Plasencia notched 14 saves for a .667 save percentage. Offensively the Gaels were lead by Christian Skuce (3g, 3a), Freshmen Hayden Cook and Tommy Cummings who each had 2 goals and one assist.
While the Fullerton win was a major step forward for Saint Mary’s, they couldn’t rest long. The next weekend the Gaels hit the road again this time traveling North to Ashland, OR. On Saturday they played a Puget Sound team that is in its second year of a three-year initiation process into the PNCLL. The Gaels came to play going up 10-0 after the first quarter. Several young Gael players got some crucial playing experience including Sophomore Attackman Marshall Bruce who recorded the first point in his college career on an assist in the fourth quarter. Saint Mary’s cruised to a 15-2 win and looked towards a Southern Oregon team with a large chip on their shoulder.
The 2011 edition of the Raiders vs. Gaels game began with Saint Mary’s taking a 7-2 lead going into halftime. It ended with Southern Oregon outscoring the Gaels 5-1 to end the game and almost pulling off the upset. This year they would look to continue their second half performance and try to surprise the heavily favored Gaels. The game was tightly contested all the way through. Midfielders Matthew Jaber and Tom Gourhan led the offense each with 4 points on 3 goals and 1 assist. They also both gave the Gaels key possessions through face-offs, winning a combined 66% of the games’ draws. Up just 6-5 at halftime, the SMC offense exploded in the third to give the Gaels a 12-7 lead going into the final quarter. In the fourth they were able to hold on through a strong push by Southern Oregon and came out with a 15-12 victory.
Tonight, only hours after the poll was released showing the Gaels’ 2-spot climb to number #11, they will face their toughest competition. At 6pm, in what will be the Gaels’ first game on the brand new turf lacrosse field and the first night game hosted by the team on campus, #11 Saint Mary’s will face off with #6 Westminster College (3-0). Westminster is coming off the Full-House Face-Off last weekend where they won all three games against #13 Sam Houston State 15-9, #23 Western Oregon 17-8, and the Gael’s WCLL rival UC Santa Cruz 25-4. Since joining the MCLA in 2007, the Griffins have been nothing short of dominant. They have 5 trips to Nationals, 3 RMLC titles, and a National Championship in 2008. This matchup will have serious post season and National Ranking implications. A win for the Gaels would likely mean a top ten ranking and, if they can win a third straight WCLL Championship, the first trip to the MCLA Tournament in the program’s history. The game is likely to be one the biggest events in the 23-year history of Gaels Lacrosse.