Lacrosse wins two of three during break

The No. 18 Utah lacrosse team (5-3) wrapped up the toughest portion of its regular-season schedule over the break, finishing with good momentum.

The Utes lost to No. 2-ranked Colorado State in Los Angeles at the start of Spring Break before rebounding with a win the next day over UCLA. They added a pounding of Gonzaga last Sunday.

“We’ve got the hard part out of the way,” Ute coach Mase Goodhand said, “We are heavily favored in most of our remaining matches.”

CSU easily dispatched of an overmatched U squad in the first game in Southern California. The Rams dominated possession, with twice as many ground balls as the Utes.

That led to a difficult day for junior goalie Jeremy Johnson, who recorded 27 saves in the loss. Junior attacker Stefan Turkula was the lone bright spot for the offense, tallying three goals, and sophomore Tom Fernandez notched nine ground balls.

The Rams jumped out to a big 8-1 halftime lead before sending out their reserves in the more competitive second half.

Perhaps deriving inspiration from the loss, the U hammered UCLA late in the game to secure a 16-9 victory. Fernandez scored six goals, and Turkula added four more with two assists. Junior Rich Qualey scrapped his way to eight ground balls in addition to scoring five points.

It was a close contest in the first half, but Goodhand says that “superior conditioning” prevailed in the second.

The Utes returned to the thin air of Salt Lake City to face Gonzaga, who showed up just in time for the first inclement weather of the break.

Snow made lacrosse impossible at Stillwell Field, where multiple tests proved that the ball would disappear upon the opening drop, leaving the players wildly swinging through the snow.

The game was relocated to the practice facility at the Spence Eccles Field House, where the Utes annihilated Gonzaga 17-4. Turkula, Fernandez, and sophomore Parker Ellison all had hat tricks. Offense was the best defense against the Zags.

“We didn’t allow them to get the ball past midfield for long periods of time,” said Goodhand.

Turkula and Fernandez each netted 10 goals over the three games, and are sixth and seventh in the division in scoring, respectively.

The Utes will turn their focus to No. 19 Cal Poly on Thursday, which presents the most difficult challenge until the final game of the regular season against No. 4 BYU in Provo.

“After Cal Poly, we can focus on sharpening our skills for tournament play at the end of the season,” Goodhand said.

The Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference Championships take place in Greely, Colo., at the end of April, two weeks before the USLMDIA Championships in Blaine, Minn.

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