DENVER – Five straight goals in the first quarter, four of which game in a span of four minutes, propelled the CSU club lacrosse team to an 8-4 victory over rival CU-Boulder Saturday evening in the fifth annual Rock Mountain Lacrosse Showdown at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium.
It was the most important victory yet in the showdown for the Rams, who clinched a coveted third seed in next weekend’s conference tournament.
“(The win is) important because this is the first time this game has meant anything,” CSU coach Flip Naumburg said, referring to the tournament seeding. “This is huge for us.”
The win also clinched the Rams a spot in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association national tournament May 13-17 in Dallas, Texas, where they will be looking for their fifth national title since 1999.
But first, CSU will play second-seed Utah on Friday in the semifinals of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference tournament – avoiding a matchup against first-place BYU, who beat the Rams 14-6 earlier this year. Instead, CU will face the Cougars, the No. 3 team in the country.
“To be a three seed instead of a four makes a huge difference,” CSU attacker Cooper Kehoe said.
Kehoe, along with fellow freshman Paul Larson, led the Rams offensively with a combined five goals.
Kehoe scored two of his three goals during the Rams’ first quarter run, the second of which proved to be the difference in the game. The freshman from Pebble Beach, Calif., was named the game’s MVP for his impressive showdown debut.
“It’s great, I’m honored. But it was a total team effort,” Kehoe said.
After going up 5-1 in the first quarter, CU midfielder Jack Kruzewski scored with three and a half minutes left in the second quarter to get the Buffs within three. Cooper answered three minutes later to get himself a hat trick and his team a four-goal lead, 7-3, going into halftime.
CSU senior Tyson Ehinger subbed fellow senior Gerrett Fitzgerald in goal for the second half, allowing just one fourth-quarter goal by CU’s Tyler Snyder to preserve the win.
The Rams improved to 5-0 in the showdown and remained undefeated against their instate rivals in regular season play in front of the 4,800 who gathered at Invesco, bearing near-freezing temperatures.
“We were all pumped up for this game,” Larson said. “This was a must-win for us.”
Sports Editor Sean Star can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.