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ASU Lacrosse: Defensive struggles are in the rear view mirror

(Photo: Jodi Vosika/ASU Lacrosse)

ASU lacrosse lacked its archetypal hard-hitting and lustrous defense in their preseason scrimmage against Whittier that resulted in a cringing blowout. Head coach Joe Thon previously remarked that the team was  “too soft” and that they needed to be “more physical” following the crushing loss.

That game is now nearly two months behind the Sun Devils, but it could not feel any farther away.

New tactics and strategies have the team prepared and ready to prevent another disaster with just a handful of solely conference games left to go in the regular season.

That strategy lies within the defense.

The defense, along with the rest of the team, has ramped up its techniques as the season has progressed. The improvement was evident from the get-go with dominant season-opening wins over Cal and Stanford, as well as the team’s most recent blowout win over Texas in mid-March.

Now, No. 3 Arizona State is set to take on No. 1 Grand Canyon April 4 in the Sun Devil’s first divisional matchup of the season, and the key to shutting down GCU stems from digging into the defensive well to hold the star power at bay.

This ASU defense is well aware of the offensive game that the Lopes put up. Starting defenseman and captain Ryan Berns has faced GCU several times throughout his career.

“As a defense individually, we’re trying to limit them from the top side. We need to make sure we’re playing as a team if we’re going to limit their two attackmen,” Berns said.

More specifically, the attackmen of significance are senior Carson Barton and junior Dean Fairall. Barton has posted 36 goals for the season and Fairall has 31. Together, the two have 117 points combined for the season, and they are No. 1 and No. 2 in points per game in the entire MCLA.

Berns said he’s telling his team the same thing as with any game—to take it one game at a time.

“It’s a little easier to motivate the guys when you’re facing the No. 1 team in the country. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been the ones with the targets on our backs,” Berns said.

During the team’s two week hiatus, ASU ran different formations and scenarios that they’re planning to roll out against Grand Canyon. In addition, Thon has been running his defense with drills to limit the passing of Grand Canyon.

“The ball’s up and then it’s pass, pass, goal with these guys. We have to prevent that from happening,” Thon said.

As far as the history of the matchup goes, the games have been close in the two years that ASU and GCU have played each other. Arizona State triumphed 13-9 in the matchup last year; however, they lost to the Lopes 14-13 the year before in Grand Canyon’s premiere season in Division 1.

“It’s a huge rivalry where everyone is ready for it,” Berns said.

Arizona State and Grand Canyon are currently both 7-1. The two teams play April 4 at Grand Canyon at 2 p.m. You can catch the game live online here.

You can reach the reporter on Twitter @Kaci_Demarest or via e-mail at

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