The last two MCLA Championship games have ended with the Wolverines celebrating while the Chapman Panthers strided off the field in defeat.
The matchup against Chapman was expected to occur all season long as the two traditional MCLA powerhouses faced off on a chilly evening at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Friday night.
“I would love another chance to play Chapman because I think they get a lot of attention that they might not necessarily deserve,” senior captain Michael Bartomioli said in February at the conclusion of the preseason. “They’re a great team but we have shown that we can beat them – three times in a row. I like playing against great teams, so it’s always fun to play against a team like that.”
In the MCLA semifinals in Denver, Colorado, the scene was strikingly similar as the Wolverines ousted the Panthers, 12-10, to secure a berth in MCLA National Championship game tonight.
For No. 1 Michigan, it was yet another step towards accomplishing their yearlong goal of winning its third consecutive national title.
“By our standards we haven’t really accomplished a lot yet – we still have to win tonight to reach our goals,” Michigan coach John Paul said. “We are pretty happy to be here, it’s not easy to get to where we are. Its justification for all the hard work we do to get to this point and now we just need to finish.”
The Wolverines came out flying and recovered nicely after the Panthers opened up the scoring in the first minute of play. Michigan scored four unanswered goals to close out the quarter and took a 7-4 lead into the halftime break.
Michigan relied on many different scorers throughout the game as last year’s MCLA Player of the Year, junior Trevor Yealy, was held scoreless for the first time all season. Four Wolverines found the back of the net twice while a total of eight players scored during the game. Senior captain David Rogers led the Wolverines with three points.
The play of junior goaltender Mark Stone was stellar during a hectic fourth quarter when Chapman cut Michigan’s lead down to two goals on two separate occasions. Stone finished with 15 saves.
“We’ve always known Chapman was a team of runs,” Stone said. “The biggest thing for us was our defense doing a really great job (when) it got really hectic in the last couple of minutes. For me, I was just trying to see the ball and tried to play my best to keep our team in it.”
Since day one of the preseason, the Wolverines have reiterated time and time again that they have one goal and they know how to accomplish it. It wasn’t to continue their undefeated streak, which ended against Colorado earlier in the season.
The goal was simple – to peak on May 15 at Dicks Sporting Goods Park during the national championship.
Michigan will have an opportunity to do that tonight when they will take on No. 3 Arizona State for the second time this year. The Wolverines defeated the Sun Devils 11-10 in Tempe, Arizona during the second game of their season.
“Arizona State is a very, very good team,” Paul said. “They are a lot like Chapman, very dangerous in transition, great offense, underrated defense. We’re going to have to play really good lacrosse on both ends of the field and in the middle. We are confident we can do that, we have a really good game plan but they are in the championship game for a reason and we’re looking forward to a great championship game tonight.”