The Utah Valley University Wolverines shocked the club lacrosse world on Friday as they took down the defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Grand Canyon University Lopes in overtime, 11-10. The Wolverines controlled the game throughout the contest, dominating time of possession in the first half and grabbing a quick 3-0 lead; they never looked back. After a tight game and a lot of back and forth, UVU was able to secure the upset win in overtime when freshman attackman Justin Haws snagged a failed GCU clear and buried a bounce shot in the back of the net.
“We knew we had to get off to a fast start to have a chance,” reflected UVU defensive coordinator Marc Miller, “We had a really focused walk through, and a great pregame warm-up. We knew who their key players were, and focused our attention on taking away some of their strengths.”
Shawn Rowley was huge for the Green & Gold between the pipes, saving 67% of the shots that came his way, including several one-on-ones, and effectively clearing the ball throughout the game.
After UVU went up early, a slew of penalties and transition goals helped keep things tight. Following several tie scores, a lead change on a GCU man-up goal looked like it might swing the momentum in the Lopes’ favor, but UVU kept grinding away and took the lead back, 7-6, on a faceoff fast break with only seconds remaining in the half. “It really helped us carry momentum into the second half,” said Miller, “Everyone on the sideline felt that we belonged in this game.”
The second half was just as close as the first, with UVU clinging to a one-goal lead for a majority of play. A Wolverine goal on the doorstep put Utah Valley up two, 10-8, and looked like it might be the nail in the coffin with under five minutes to play. But the Lopes responded with a goal at the 1:30 mark and another with under a minute left to tie the game at 10. A final UVU possession came up fruitless, sending the game to overtime.
“The coaching staff told the players how proud of them we were for getting to this point. The players responded saying that isn’t good enough, we are going to win.” And win they did. After snagging the faceoff in OT, the Wolverines took a timeout to draw something up, but weren’t able to capitalize, turning the ball over. But a relentless UVU ride regained them the possession, leading to the Haws game-winner.
Coach Miller on the win: “Especially for the seniors, this win is really rewarding for a lot of hard work this year. We are excited, but know that we have a long way to go. Hats off to GCU, we have a lot of respect for that program. [This win gives us] confidence. 23 out of 30 players are underclassmen. This win gives us a big boost going into the rest of the season.”
Utah Valley (1-0) won’t have much time to celebrate their victory. They take on No. 11 Arizona on Saturday, February 6 at 3 PM MST.