(Photo: Jacob Franklin/WCSN)
The Arizona State men’s club lacrosse team ended their regular season on the highest of notes, knocking off rivals Arizona and boosting their national championship aspirations on the eve of postseason play.
No. 8 ASU extending their Territorial Cup winning streak with the 14-6 win, making it nine straight victories over their 21st-ranked rivals from Tucson. The Sun Devils also clinched the second seed in the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference’s Southern Division, giving ASU a home playoff game in the conference tournament.
“The home playoff game is huge,” ASU head coach MacRobbie said. “We don’t have to drive potentially six to 11 hours and we don’t have to pay $12,000-15,000.”
After the a tightly contested first half, ASU’s offense exploded to life in the third quarter, scoring four straight goals to take control of the game. Highlighting the flurry was a superb individual effort from Trevor Driscoll. The sophomore face-off specialist won at the ball at the dot, sprinted around Arizona’s Ben Callaghan and fired a shot off the crossbar and in from just inside the box.
“A lot of the times when I come down, I bring the ball, I can see whether I’ll be able to shoot or not,” Driscoll said. “On that (goal), I didn’t scoop (the ball) up till really late, and by the time I scooped it up and had control of the ball I was already inside the box, so I was just going to wind up and shoot it.”
Meanwhile, junior midfielder Tommy Carasco struck three times in the third quarter, finding repeated success with shots from distance, while sophomore midfielder Ben Parietti tacked on a goal of his own to punctuate the Sun Devil’s dominance. ASU’s 4-3 halftime blossomed to a 9-4 advantage going into the fourth, and killed off any chance of a Wildcat upset.
“It was not a change of system, it was 100 percent player driven,” MacRobbie said of the improved second half showcase. “We (coaches) did nothing different.”
Arizona started the game brightly, scoring the contest’s opening goal when redshirt junior midfielder Christian Turri beat Sun Devils goalie Chris Roufanis with a close-range finish.
The senior Roufanis was given the nod in net for the Devils in his final career regular season game and made four saves to aid the ASU victory. Roufanis was replaced by usual number one goalie Johnny Perlite after the first quarter, before returning to finish the game to cap a memorable senior day.
“Chris is a four-year senior, and at one point in time (he) was our sole starting goalie,” MacRobbie said. “He has done a lot for us and he has put a lot in, so I think it was a no-brainer.”
The Sun Devils offense meanwhile responded to the early defecit, utilizing crisp ball movement to unlock the Wildcat defense. Junior attackman Patrick Haviland got ASU on the board, slotting a low wrap-around shot past Arizona goalie Cody Biggs.
Junior midfielder Ryan Bradway gave ASU their first lead late in the first quarter with a man-advantage goal, taking a back-door pass from fellow junior midfielder Tommy Carasco before rifling the ball into the net.
ASU extended their dominance into the second quarter, when leading-scorer Jake Marthens, a sophomore attackman, tallied his 28th goal of the year to stretch the Sun Devil lead to 3-1.
After back to back Arizona goals from freshman attackman James Huber tied the game at 3-3, ASU freshman midfielder Brandon Rodgers scored to push the Sun Devils back in front; after taking a pass in the middle of the box, the Dana Point, California native weaved his way through Wildcat defenders and directed a bouncing shot into the upper corner of the goal.
“We still have to play a full 60 minutes,” MacRobbie said, critiquing his team’s slow start. “We potentially have seven more games to play, and playing forty-five minutes a game is not going to do it.”
The Sun Devil celebrations started well before opening face-off on Saturday, as the game was christened with a “Senior Day” ceremony for ASU. Seniors Rhett Rodgers, Kyle Corona, Zach Long, Jeff Sanchez, Trevor Sciotto, Weston Colby and Roufanis were honored for their contributions to the program.
Weston gave the day a fitting end, when he scored his first career goal late in the fourth quarter, prompting an emotional celebration from his fellow senior teammates.
The graduating Sun Devils will springboard into the postseason on the back of the rivalry win, looking to cap their careers with the program’s first national championship.
“Until we play a full sixty minutes, we aren’t going to win a national championship,” MacRobbie said. “That’s what we are here for.”