Star of the Box: Senior Nick Stanitz-Harper — 2 goals, 2 assists
GREELEY — On a cold, gray Saturday the CSU men's lacrosse team felt the sting of defeat for the first time this season, losing 8-7 to Brigham Young in the final of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference Tournament.
Their quest for an undefeated season is over, but the Rams (15-1) remain upbeat heading into the national championships, which begin on May 11 in Blaine, Minn.
"I really wanted that undefeated season," said sophomore midfielder Pat Bird. "But this is just fuel for the fire."
BYU (13-3) combined solid defense and key offensive scores to defeat the Rams. BYU goalie Chris Powers had a total of 13 saves, including a few that brought cheers from the crowd.
"They haven't beaten us in a long time," said CSU head coach Flip Naumburg, who was named conference coach of the year following the game. "They had a lot of motivation. I think their goalie made a lot of good saves."
BYU took an early lead in the game with a goal by Dan Cole at 14:30. The Rams responded late in the period with goals at 6:46 by Ryan Trude and 1:40 by Shay Cunningham. BYU scored twice in the second period to go ahead again, but Bird scored for CSU with 48 seconds left on the clock to tie the score at three.
"I think we out-shot them in a lot of categories," Naumburg said. "We did good on turnovers, didn't on face-offs. We couldn't get anyone to score any goals."
In the third period, the defense tightened on both sides until Jordan Theurer scored for the Cougars at 3:30. Kellen Gunderson followed with a goal at 2:21.
These types of quick scores have plagued the Rams defense throughout the season.
"The defense has had problems all year letting in a few quick goals like that," said junior defense Kellin Bershinsky.
The Rams countered with a goal at the end of the period by Michael Murphy. With the score at 5-4 in favor of the Cougars, both teams came out fighting in the fourth. Both teams scored three times in the period, with Cole nailing in BYU's final score at 3:00 to put the Cougars up by two. CSU goalie Pete Jokisch made 14 saves on the day, despite allowing eight goals.
"Cool things we usually do didn't happen," Bershinsky said. "In the fourth quarter the defense let them get three goals. Our offense couldn't come back."
CSU senior attack Nick Stanitz-Harper scored two of the final goals for the Rams and assisted on a goal by senior midfield Tim Farquhar.
Bershinsky said he hopes the team will keep the loss in mind as it heads to Minnesota.
"The feeling of the loss will hopefully give us motivation," Bershinsky said.
Bird knows it won't be any easier as the Rams move on to the national tournament. The Rams hoisted the national trophy in 2003, but lost in the championship game last year.
"I expect teams of this caliber," Bird said. "Like two trains on the same track gunning for each other."