For the 3rd time in the past 4 years, Fort Lewis Men’s Lacrosse made it to the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference championship game in Boulder, CO this past weekend. Once again, they came up just short of their goal of winning and qualifying for the MCLA National Championships. Playing as a clear underdog, down to just 17 players, and many of those playing through significant injuries, the Skyhawks won the respect of every fan and team that saw them play. The Fort finishes with an 11-4 record, with all of their losses coming to teams ranked in the national top 25.
The Skyhawks first game on Friday was against the rival Montana St. Bobcats. The Fort won the 1st quarter 3-2, but couldn’t get going in the 2nd quarter and ended the half down 5-3. Fort Lax came out firing in the 3rd, scoring 2 quick goals to tie the game at 5, then an hour long lightning delay stole their thunder. Montana St. was able to rally back in the final few minutes of the 3rd to keep a 8-6 lead. Some defensive changes led to a shutdown 4th quarter and the Fort found themselves all tie up at 8 apiece with 0:45 left in the game and a chance to win. Despite getting off 2 shots, the Fort found themselves in overtime for the 2nd time this year against the Bobcats. Just like the last time, the Skyhawks would not be denied. In the 2nd overtime, So. midfielder James Rott made a hard cut and So. attackman Ian Bragdon found him inside with a perfect pass and quick shot to end the game. Every player made a big play in the course of the win for the Fort, but none stood bigger than So. goalie Hayden Pike making 23 saves. 9 of them in the shutout 4th quarter alone.
Championship Saturday the game against the Utah State Aggies was played with a heavy heart, as the Skyhawks learned that former Fort Lax head coach Zane Bilgrav had lost his battle with cancer the night before. They dedicated the game to his memory, and gave everything they had left in the effort. Tired bodies and legs were evident for the Fort, as desperation led to 10 penalties in the 1st half, and an 11-4 score in favor of Utah St. The 2nd lightning delay in two days during the 3rd quarter helped the Skyhawks gather themselves, as they came back playing disciplined and tenacious. The Fort brought the score back to 12-9 with about 8 minutes left in the game. The Aggies showed why they are the #15 team in the nation, as they took advantage of 4 more FLC penalties in the final 6 minutes and turned them into 7 unanswered goals to end the game 19-9. In the end, the Skyhawks just couldn’t overcome injuries to key players, and the loss of 3 seniors to graduation ceremonies here in Durango.