For the second year in a row, the Western men’s lacrosse team has made the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association Championship tournament.
After going 10-3 and 4-0 in the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League, the Vikings swept the PNCLL Playoffs by beating Western Oregon University 15-7 and Portland University 18-7.
They will face the 2014 national champion Grand Valley State University on Monday, May 11, at University of California, Irvine, and team members said they are confident they can make a run to the championship game.
“I’m excited,” junior midfielder Justin Ross said. “We get to play the national champions and prove that we can win.”
Ross said the team has been so successful this season because of coach Adam Lent’s style of play.
“Everyone bought into the philosophy,” Ross said. “We want to play stingy defense and put pressure on our opponents whenever we can.”
Ross noted winning the ground ball battles and turning those into goals is what Lent has been harping on all season.
Grand Valley State University, which is 9-4, will travel from Michigan to the tournament, and Ross said the team respects their national championship-caliber talent. However, he said he believes the Vikings can win the game.
“Lots of East Coast teams don’t respect lacrosse teams in the west,” Ross said. “We want to go to the tournament and prove that is wrong and make a name for the West Coast and its lacrosse.”
Grand Valley State will still pose an impressive challenge for the Vikings. The Lakers posted a +79 goal differential in 2015 and performed well in its conference tournament.
But Western was just as dominant this season in its respective conference. They scored 211 goals and gave up only 82 for a goal differential of +129. The next best goal differential in its conference was +54 by the College of Idaho.
The Vikings will look to freshman Zach Fritz for offense, as he has scored 32 goals, and also dished out 32 assists. His 64 points lead the team in 2015.
Senior Jordan Foster leads the team with 41 goals.
Senior goalie Jordan Johnson will also be important as Grand Valley State has scored nearly 200 goals this season. Johnson has saved 63 percent of shots on goal this season, while the defense has helped around him.
The MCLA Championship tournament consists of 16 teams and eight first-round games. The Vikings leave on Saturday morning to drive to UC Irvine.