Dominican University Falls Just Short at Colorado Mesa

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Dominican University of California was on the verge of school history on Saturday, but the Colorado Mesa Mavericks blocked its path.

Mesa's Josh Russell scored the game-winning goal with 5:52 to play as the home team prevented the Penguins from winning their first-ever Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association title and clinching the first-ever winning season in the program's history. The 5-4 loss by Dominican dropped the Penguins (6-5/5-2) into second place and elevated the Mavericks (7-3/5-1) into first.

The Penguins had rallied twice in the game to tie it, the last time with 8:35 to go when Dalton Copeland made it 4-4 ending a possession that started when senior defender Corey Whelan collected a groundball. Copeland had a last-second potential game-tying shot saved by Mesa goalkeeper Brad Brandenburg

"It was exactly the game we thought it would be," said Head Coach Ned Webster whose team came from behind to beat the Mavericks 13-9 a week earlier. "We knew after the last game that us putting up a lot of goals that they would want to slow it down and turn it into a boring lacrosse."

In the first 30 minutes, the Penguins, the league's highest scoring team with an average of 11.33 goals per game, were limited to a season-low one first-half goal by the Mavericks, who have the lowest goals against average (6.89) in the league. Sophomore co-captain Brock Beall tallied Dominican's first goal unassisted with 21 seconds left in the first period.

Colorado Mesa regained the lead with a man-up goal in the second quarter and took a 3-1 advantage to intermission. The Mavericks outshot the Penguins 12-9 in the first half and collected 19 groundballs to 14 for Dominican.

"They definitely took advantage of their opportunities. They had a couple of goals in transition and they had an extra-man goal," Webster said. "It seems like they scored most of their goals in special situations."

In their game on March 30, Dominican overcame three three-goal deficits in the first half. The Penguins came from behind again as freshman Jake Fritz scored two third-period goals to tie the contest before eventually winning the game.

The Penguins, who lead the WILA in shots on goal, wound up outshooting the Mavericks in the contest, but couldn't get enough in the net. Their defense, however, gave them a fighting chance.

"The fact that we played two thirds of the game without the ball, I thought our defense played very well and I thought [goalie] Sean Donohue played solid. I'm proud of their effort," Webster said. "We didn't play bad. We just didn't have the ball as much as we'd like and credit to Mesa for executing that."

The Penguins off are until April 21 when they travel to play NCAA Div. III Whittier College in a game featuring two of the three NCAA sanctioned lacrosse programs in the state of California. In Dominican's season finale they'll face the third, Notre Dame de Namur University, in "Battle for the Bay" at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.


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