Commerce City, Colorado- In one of the closest and most exciting games of the first round of the MCLA National Championships, #14 seed Colorado State Rams lost by one goal to # 3 seed Chapman Panthers, 8-9. They played a much better game than the first time around against the Panthers, but just couldn’t score in the final minutes to keep their championship hopes alive.
“I thought we played great,” commented Colorado State coach Flip Naumburg. ”Everything was good, except that we are out of the tournament. I think it was the best game we played all year and I thought the game plan worked great.”
Colorado State came out with a new attitude and intensity than they’ve played with in the last few games of the season, and they gave Chapman a run for their money. When all was said and done, they made Chapman earn the win.
“I thought in a lot of ways this was our best performance of the season,” said assistant coach Alex Smith. “We had a good game plan coming in and our guys executed all day long. More than anything we wanted to force Chapman to play at our speed, and that’s what we did. We came up short in the end, but I couldn’t be more proud of the way we played.”
Even though Chapman scored first, the first quarter belonged to the Rams. They scored the following three goals by Garrett Fugier (Regis Jesuit HS; CO), Kevin Wolff (Don Bosco Prep; NJ) and Cooper Kehoe (Stevenson HS; CA) to win the quarter, 3-1. They played an overall better quarter than the Panthers, and it showed on the scoreboard.
The second quarter, however, was won by Chapman on the scoreboard and stat sheet. The Panthers scored two goals in the quarter to even up the score at 3 all going into halftime.
Colorado State came out of halftime playing some of their best lacrosse. Pat Miller (Air Academy; CO) and Scott Gelston (Air Academy; CO) won 6 of 7 face-off attempts in the third quarter, and that was one of the areas they had trouble with the last time they faced Chapman. Miller and Gelston ended up winning 13 of 20 face-offs on the day.
The Rams opened up the scoring in the half two minutes into it after a goal by Will Cantwell (Lakewood HS; CO), and saw two more goals within two minutes from Paul Larson (Columbine HS; CO), who scored one other goal in the fourth, and Luke Miller (Regis Jesuit HS; CO). Kehoe also scored his second goal of the game in the third quarter, allowing the Rams to start the fourth quarter with a 7-5 lead.
The score could have been a lot better for the Rams, but Chapman goalie Jason Kho had 5 saves in the quarter. Between Kho and Daniel Kirkpatrick, the other Panther goalie, they totaled 13 saves. Alex Jacques (Bainbridge Island HS; WA) came up with some big saves for the Rams to help keep them in it. He had 7 saves total against the Panthers, and helped limit Chapman’s offense to only 5 goals through the first three quarters.
“Chapman is a good offensive team,” noted Smith, “but we knew we could force them out of their comfort zone if we slowed the ball down a little bit and made them work for shot opportunities. Our settled defensive effort and goaltending was outstanding today and that helped us stay in it. Not to mention we completely controlled the face-offs, which we weren’t planning on. That was a nice surprise.”
Chapman carried the momentum of scoring the last goal in the third quarter into the fourth, where they went on a 5-goal scoring streak to re-capture the lead they haven’t seen since early in the first quarter. Unfortunately for Colorado State, the Panthers would hold on to that lead for the remainder of the game. The Rams scored only once before the final whistle blew the game dead with a final score of 9-8 in Chapman’s favor.
Colorado State will now head home and re-group for next season and hope that it will go better. They faced perhaps the toughest schedule in the MCLA, as well as some adversity that makes it a wonder they got to the point where they did.
“Our senior leadership was outstanding in view of all the adversity we faced during the year,” reflected Coach Naumburg.
On the same topic, Smith said, “We really had a year filled with adversity and our players responded like men. At the end of the game, I told them that I wasn’t looking at a bunch of kids anymore. I am really looking forward to next year and building off this because we have a lot to be excited about heading into 2010.”