Despite loss, Men’s Lacrosse on road to success

As the clock wound down, a fierce comeback effort from the Gaels’ men’s lacrosse team was quelled by a combination of Santa Cruz’s staunch defense, questionable officiating decisions, and the lack of time to generate a comeback. The crowd watched as Saint Mary’s head coach Colin Knightly could only keep to himself near the center of a mud-drenched field for a few moments as the team walked off the field in defeat. After trailing 9-4 at the half, the Gaels scored four consecutive goals and were constantly pressuring the Banana Slugs’ defense, but ended up falling just short, losing 10-9 to their archrivals last Saturday.
The matchup has a bit of history, as the two sides met in last year’s WCLL Division II championship in a game remarkably similar to Saturday’s encounter, with the Gaels coming back only to end up losing by a single goal in overtime, 12-11, something that the Gaels definitely haven’t forgotten.

“Last year’s game was really similar to this. We got down at some times, it was a battle back and forth, and we talked before the game about not necessarily revenge but about having that little spit in our mouth and coming back almost twelve months later,” Knightly said. “The only good thing is that we’re going to have the opportunity to do it again, hopefully in the championship and on a turf, all-weather field.”

While their most recent loss can properly be labeled a heartbreaker, the Gaels are asĀ competitive as they have been in years, and are looking towards capturing their first championship since 2000. With a pre-season ranking of #2 in the Western Collegiate Lacrosse League (WCLL), an overall record of 3-2 and a league record of 1-1, the team is on its way to its first winning season since 2005. The incoming freshman, such as midfielder Matthew Jaber and attacker Jimmy Karnezis, and transfers, including juniors Alex Starr and Gavin Cook and sophomore Joe Rosa, have certainly helped its cause.

“I am so excited about our freshman coming in and being able to contribute immediately,” Knightly said. “I actually coached our transfers in high school. They are bringing this new sense of positive feeling because they’ve never really had losing seasons before. They didn’t know what the last three years have been like for the Gaels. They’ve been difficult [with] a lot of losses. So now these kids are ready and hungry to win and it’s really translating for the rest of the team.”

The Gaels will most likely come out firing against Concordia on Thursday in a nonconference game before March road trips to Reno and Oregon, where they will face two ranked opponents in Southern Oregon and Western Oregon. As Knightly says, “these kids are going to come out swinging like lumberjacks” after a game played with so much intensity.
While Knightly and the Gaels will rue not being able to top the Slugs this time, these are definitely exciting times for Gaels’ men’s lacrosse and there is much to look forward to, not the least of which will hopefully be another meeting with Santa Cruz at the culmination of the season.

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