(Photo: Liesl Babicka/WCSN)
Head coach Todd MacRobbie knows how it feels to lose to Arizona. He has felt the pain that follows a loss to the Wildcats and understands the disappointment of falling short to his school’s rival.
Arizona State University’s men’s club lacrosse team plays its annual Territorial Cup game on Saturday, riding an eight-game winning streak against Arizona that stretches back to 2008. MacRobbie has coached in the majority of these recent successes against the Wildcats, but he remembers when it wasn’t this way.
“When I played here, we never got to beat U of A,” MacRobbie said. “It’s one of those missions as a coach that hey, we’ve won (eight) in a row let’s make it (nine).”
Things are different now though. The No. 8 Sun Devils are once again National Championship contenders in 2017, while Arizona has stumbled to a 5-7 record and No. 21 national ranking, leaving their MCLA National Championships bid in doubt.
2017 has followed the recent pattern in the rivalry, one the Sun Devils have dominated during the last decade. Since 2010, ASU has finished every season ranked higher than Arizona. During that time, the Sun Devils have registered a top-10 position in the polls; Arizona has accomplished that feat just once.
The teams’ head to head matchups have been dominated by the maroon and gold as well. Not since 2007 has Arizona been able to claim bragging rights over their neighbors to the north, and you have to go back a year further to find the last time ASU lost the game on home soil.
Last year was one of the most competitive and important meetings in series history. The then No. 7 Wildcats had national title aspirations, and were favored to beat the No. 14, and struggling, Sun Devils in Tucson.
However, attackman Patrick Haviland, just a sophomore at the time, scored a hat trick, while freshman goalie Johnny Perlite made 11 saves, clinching a Sun Devil upset victory, 9-5.
“The atmosphere is always great in those rivalry games,” Haviland said. “They have a nice field down there in Tucson, and they have a lot of fans from parents to students to little local lacrosse players and even those guys are trying to chirp the ASU guys.”
The 2015 contest was the closest Arizona has come to breaking its losing streak. Wildcat goalie Tanner Knego produced a herculean effort, stopping a whopping 21 shots in the game. However, a four goal outburst from Sun Devil attack Finn Wells, and a dominate performance from ASU faceoff man Zack Handy (won 15 of the 17 faceoffs he took), gave ASU a narrow 9-7 win.
The Wildcats other trips to Tempe, or Glendale, in recent years have gone even worse. Between 2008-2013, the Sun Devils won all three home games in the series, outscoring Arizona 44-17 during that stretch.
In 2013, now-assistant coach Justin Straker teamed up with fellow attackman Payson Clark, as both Sun Devils tallied five goals in a 17-7 blowout. The year before that, ASU goalie Dylan Westfall limited the Wildcats to just three goals in a 9-3 ASU victory.
MacRobbie has been on the sidelines for each triumph since rejoining the program as an assistant coach in 2011. But, no matter how dominant of a history the Sun Devils have, he is reluctant to give up his less glamorous memories and forget the feeling of losing this game.
“Every (game) in the last nine years has been fun because we’ve won,” MacRobbie said. “But in the long run they still have the advantage so we owe them a few.”