The Western men’s lacrosse team made its deepest run in team history by making it to the Final Four before losing, one game away from the championship.
Last year, the Western men’s lacrosse team made it to nationals for the first time since 2010. This season, they set their sights on the national championships, vowing to win their division once again and go further than any lacrosse team in Western’s history.
They accomplished that.
“At nationals, no Western team had ever won their first game,” Michael Hatcher said.
Hatcher, a senior on the team, was voted Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) First-Team All-American as well as First-Team All-Conference. He was one of the key players who lead the team on their deepest playoff run in team history.
The Vikings made it to Nationals in 2007, 2010 and 2014 only to lose their opening playoff game each time. This season, the 12th seeded Vikings took on the 5th seeded Grand Valley State Lakers in the first round and won 10-9 in a thrilling overtime victory.
Team President Colin Story recalled the whole experience and specifically the first game.
“We were still bitter from last year’s first-round lose so in the preseason, we set a goal to win the division and make it back to nationals,” he said. “We weren’t given any slack as we were matched up against the reigning national champions and 5th seeded Grand Valley State. But we got the win in overtime and it was crazy.”
Before the start of the second game at nationals, the Western squad already made the deepest playoff run in school history, but it wasn’t over yet.
The Vikings faced the 4th seeded North Dakota State Bison, coming away with a 12-11 win in overtime.
“We faced a lot of adversity in that game, from the opposing coach first and then from the refs as they made quite a few questionable calls to say the least,” Story said.
Regardless of the situation, the Vikings won their second game at nationals and made it to the Final Four. Their next matchup was against the top-seeded Concordia Eagles.
“We thought we were going to win with the way we were playing,” Hatcher said.
The Vikings fought hard, but in the end they were outmatched and overpowered. The final score was 15-8 in favor of the Eagles. The Western squad left Chapman’s campus beaten, but not unsuccessful. They won two more games than any other team in the history of Western’s Lacrosse program. They took down the 4th seed, 5th seed and scored 8 goals on the best team in the country.
“I think we accomplished what we had gone there to accomplish and we enjoyed our time throughout the trip. This team was special because of our chemistry, senior leadership and high talent level,” Hatcher said.
Along with the record-breaking playoff push, the Vikings also boasted individual talent. Hatcher was named a First-Team All-American midfielder, senior Jordan Johnson was named a Second-Team All-American goalie, junior Austin Richert was named a Third-Team All-American defender and redshirt sophomore Jordan Foster was named an Honorable-Mention All-American as an attacker.
The men’s team will graduate seniors Jordan Johnson, Alex Bus, Jacob Goodman, Colin Story and Michael Hatcher. But with plenty of young talent including Richert and Foster, the latter leading the team with 46 goals, the Western Lacrosse team looks to continue to its run of excellence and return to nationals for the third year in a row in 2016.