Arizona Lowers the Boom on Sooners

by Jeff Herr

TUCSON, AZ - Did You Feel That?

There are times in a lacrosse season when you feel something click into the next gear. The team dials up and makes substantial advances on the field and off.  Saturday's game against unranked Oklahoma had that feeling and more.

Consider that last year Oklahoma spanked the Wildcats 11-5, part of a tough 0-3 Spring Break road trip.

Consider that Saturday was a blowout from the opening whistle. It was a beat-down with Arizona leading from the start to take a 9-3 lead at the half and 16-5 at the end of a very complete run by the Wildcats.

And also, please, consider that this is Head Coach Matt Blamey second season at Arizona and the additional of his first recruiting class. The results were, indeed, very different this year. For a program with aspirations of consistently be in the top 10 of the national rankings on a year to year basis, the result was to be expected, but it is something that Arizona is still getting used to. It was great to see it play out as expected.

This apparent leveling up by the Wildcats comes at just the right time. Next up: Grand Canyon University, a team that has never lost to Arizona since becoming a D1 program in 2012. 

But hold on, that's next week's game. Let's review the robust win Saturday against Oklahoma.

Ball control by the Wildcats was on display through the first half of the game; Oklahoma rarely possessed the ball. Clearing, a problem for the team vs BYU, was perfect on the day, which helped Arizona have a solid day taking care of the rock.

With things well in hand across all units the Wildcat coaches were able to rest their starters and give quality playing time to others that have worked hard all season to make the team better. Meanwhile, goalie Wyatt Hill was on fire again, albeit with fewer chances. Wyatt ended with 10 saves on 12 shots for a ridiculous 83% save percentage. Goalie JP Pierce came on to play the 4th quarter and contributed with some saves of his own. In short, all aspects of the Arizona game showed depth up and down the bench.

Ground balls, a stat that Coach Blamey looks at as a gauge for team success, were going Arizona's way all day. Lots of hustle on display! Faceoff specialist Evan Vogel corralled five and middie Jason Hill had 4 to lead the team, which gathered 31 in total.

The sharpshooters also worked their game. The team had great scoring distribution, as they have all year, with 8 players scoring, including 3 separate hat-tricks: Jason Hill (3), Greg Scholz (3), Seamus Hughes (3), Quinn Cariggan (2), Mason DePaola (2), Alec Moen (1), Luke Liljenstope (1) and Peyton Boyd (1). Regardless of how the rest of the season turns out, it looks like the teams offensive difficulties from 2018 are in the rear view mirror.

So in review, Arizona is on a roll this year with a great Spring Break run that went 3-0 including a win over then #4 MIchigan State, took a heartbreaking loss to BYU, and this past weekend was able to run deep into the lineup while capturing the win over Oklahoma.

And next comes GCU. Arizona's best shot at the two time MCLA champions came in 2016 when they lost 10-11. So let's just see what happens Friday at 7 p.m. when Arizona travels to play GCU in Phoenix (3300 West Camelback Road on the GCU campus). Arizona comes in ranked #13 in the latest polls while GCU is ranked #16. It has been a rarity in the last 7 years that Arizona has topped GCU in the polls. The team will need to unleash some ferocity to overcome the mental advantage that GCU coach Manny Rapkin and the GCU team have over the Cats, but this year, anything seems possible.