The last time Brigham Young met Colorado State in Fort Collins, they were outplayed. Turn-about was fair play in the first game of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference tournament. BYU controlled the pace from the opening face-off and the Cougar defense was spot-on. CSU tied the game once, but after half-time it was all BYU. The Cougars won 10 to 5.
BYU face-off specialist Jack Vassau won the opening draw. The Cougars showed patience in their first possession and it paid off with the first goal from Zach Labrum. BYU came out with the next draw and two passes later they had their second goal from Tanner Johnson setting their bench and their fans on fire. CSU secured the next face and went to work. Two shots were turned away by BYU goalie Matt Brandenburg, and BYU’s exceptional defensive middie, Connor Williams, took it the other way. CSU goalie, Frank Bender, made a save, sending the ball back the other way, but Williams stole it back. BYU was unable to score again during the quarter, but outstanding defense led by Boston Handley and Harrison Wardle kept CSU’s attack off balance. The first quarter ended with the Cougars up two and the Rams shut out.
The second quarter started with a quick face off and goal from Ashton Monheiser for the Rams. Face-offs got more competitive, but Vassau was still gaining the upper hand. The Cougars continued their stellar defense, denying the Rams crease game and forcing them to shoot from outside, which they did — a frozen rope from the top of the key tying the game 2 to 2. The Cougs gained the next possession with help from excellent wing play from Chase Paulsen. CSU forced a turnover, but BYU got it back, and middie Max Ash ran it back down. Calvin Wiley put in a bounce shot from the right, giving BYU the lead. Not to be outdone, the Rams tied it up with another hard, long shot from Jake Johnson. Both defenses hunkered in and the goalies traded huge saves. BYU broke the standoff when Taylor Heyman slipped around his defender, scoring a goal from left crease. With time winding down the Cougars took a time out. They had success on the designed play with goal number two from Heyman assisted by Johnson. At half time BYU had the lead, 5 to 3, resulting from relentless defense and patient offense.
CSU gained possession at the start of the second half. Brandenburg was stingy, gobbling up their shots and clearing with help from Devin Needs and Spencer Simpson. Cougar defensive middies Buck Howard and Jordan Higgs, in concert with long stick middie Max Neser, clamped down on the Rams’ offense — sliding and converging on their every shot attempt. CSU gave as good as they got with great defensive work as well. The Cougars broke up a Ram offensive possession with a steal from Brady Tengberg, but CSU’s Bender shut down three BYU shots in a row. On the Ram offensive push, Cougar middie Ash forced another turnover. The Cougars closed out the quarter with the only goal, from Andrew Bertha, taking BYU into the fourth with a 6 to 3 lead.
The Cougars came out in the final quarter with determination to put this game away. Winston Farley got it started, shooting a worm burner from his knee. CSU tried to mount a comeback, winning the draw. Brandenburg turned away a shot, but the Rams picked up the ground ball, claiming a put-back goal from Johnson and pulling them to within three and drawing a penalty. On the ensuing man-down face, Vassau got some help from Caleb Andrews on the wing, who scooped up the ball. The Cougars ran and ran and ran some more until they ran out the penalty, and then went back to work. CSU’s Bender continued his excellent work denying Cougar shots, but the Rams’ offense was sputtering and could not keep possession. Cougar attackman Chris Severson ripped a shot right-to-left, high-to-mid increasing the lead to four. CSU didn’t give up, winning the next draw, but the Cougar defense just pressed on, taking the ball and sending it back down field. BYU attackman Winston Farley got his second goal, scoring on a nice dump pass from Bertha. With time running out — the Cougars could sense the win theirs, and confidence was high. Severson scored the final Cougar goal with an assist from Zach Pexton. The Rams got one last goal from Chase Warner, but the deficit was too large to overcome. After winning the final face off, the Cougars did some clock burning (much to the consternation of the Ram fans). CSU forced a turnover and attempted a shot that Brandenburg easily brought home. He cleared to the midfield and the clock ran out. BYU bested CSU by five with a final score of 10 to 5.
Cougar Coach Matt Schneck was pleased by his team’s performance, noting they put together four full quarters. He said BYU goalie Matt Brandenburg was a big reason for the win along with excellent defensive work that shut down CSU’s face-off fast break and crease scorers. He stated, “Now the focus is on the next opponent and winning the RMCL tournament championship, and then heading to the national tournament.”
The Cougars will face Colorado in a rematch of last year’s championship game this Saturday at 3:00 pm.