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SOUTHWESTERN UPSETS #7 FT. LEWIS AT NATIONALS TO ADVANCE TO THE QUARTERFINALS!!!!!!

[5/13/08] Southwestern has been to the MCLA National tournament every year since its inception in 2005. Every year the team has been discarded in the first round. In fact, over the years and games at Nationals,the Bucs have managed only one win in a consolation game a couple of years ago.

If you were to talk to, well, EVERYBODY ELSE, Southwestern should have been one of the worst teams at Nationals once again this year. No one gave the Bucs a chance to win the game against the #7 Ft. Lewis Skyhawks ( a team the Bucs narrowly lost to last year in a consolation game-but who's counting). Lewis, you see if from the powerhouse RMLC D2 conference, full of multiple teams in the top 25, and all much better than the Bucs.

The problem is that someone forgot to tell the Bucs they didn't belong, that they weren't good enough, that they not only had no chance of winning, but that they could not beat a team that played so well against soo many top 25 teams all year.

All season long, the Bucs knew they were a team that was evolving at best. With a strong mix of many players with great experience and many more that were not only new to lacrosse, but new to the game, the Bucs took pride in every game they played (maybe they took a day off against a very good Texas Tech ;-)). While not every game was a win in the scoreboard, that was not the only goal as the season progressed.

While nationally the Bucs did not receive a lot of attention for the positive things they were doing, and with a mediocre record, one cannot blame them, a true fan would have to dig deeper to see the games we did play and the teams we did lose to in order to get a full assessment of our team by the end of the year. If they had, they would have realized that the meager 7-6 record was much more promising for a chance for an "upset" at Nationals than one might figure at first glance.

The Bucs knew that the Skyhawks had offensive weapons all over the field. Over the past several years, their coach and the players have put together a nice string of solid victories against some of the best in the nation. However, the Bucs idd not have Jr. Attackman Andrew Webb at nationals last year. This year, along with him, they had a group of seniors that had been throttled by San Diego and Montana, and had learned quite a bit from these experiences.

This year, despite what everyone else in the nation thought, the Bucs truly had a chip on their shoulder, even if it was self imposed. They were out to prove they not only belonged, but that people everywhere had grossly underestimated them as a team.

As if this wasn't enough, the Bucs received all the motivation they would need when shortly after the game started a defender at midfield got caught standing flat footed on a goalie clear over his head leaving McDonough one on one. The attackman decided to make a point of pointing where he was going to shoot the ball before scoring. While this was a classy move in and of itself, the goal fired the Bucs up. While the first quarter was largely spent in transition and on the defensive side of the field, the Skyhawks were able to capitalize only twice in the first, at one point taking a 2-0 lead before Senior Bryson Wersonske notched a great shot in front of the crease to bring the Bucs to within one before the quarter expired.

As the 2nd stanza began, the Bucs took control, rolling off 6 goals to Ft. Lewis's 2, to take a 7-4 lead into halftime. At one point, the Bucs lead 6-2 before Ft. Lewis scored two quick ones to bring the score to 6-4. Even with a lightning delay, the Bucs were able to maintain the focus in what was literally 100% humidity and continue to outrun the Skyhawks all over the field. Webb and the attack came alive in the second quarter along with the middies and Jake at LSM, who pretty much controlled the area between the two boxes for the rest of the day.

Not to be outdone, Cole Claiborn, Mcdonough, Carney and Fletch all played phenomenal the entire day, limiting the good looks the Ft. Lewis attackmen had and minimizing any chance they might have at making a comeback. Cole, who has been on somewhat of a scoring spree as of late, scoring in every playoff game this year, was arguably one of the better defenders in D2 that No one knew. Not only was he a shut down man, but is ability to help clear and gain possession in unsettled situations made our transition offense, our strength, that much better.

By the time the 3rd quarter started, the Bucs decided to forego their usual 3 quarter dudrums and raise the pressure a little, extending their lead and never having the game get closer than a 3 goal lead the rest of the day. The entire team was able to capitalize on the Skyhawks and play a game that the Bucs are also very good at, i.e. the run and gun transition offense.

Despite my efforts to the contrary in practice and in games all year, this is what defined us and we executed very well all day. Ft. Lewis did not have the answers for Webb, who notched 7 goals on the day and the rest of the Bucs offense. Our face off men were able to win more than they lost and Jake and the middies were able to control anything in the middle of the field for most of the rest of the day.

At one point the Bucs held a 6 point lead before the Skyhawks, who fought to the end scored a couple of more to bring the final to 12-8. As the clock clicked off its final seconds, the Bucs realized they had accomplished everything they set out to do, and the seniors, part of some epic journeys at Nationals the past few years, had become hardened warriors with a story to place in the Annals of Southwestern Lacrosse to go along with their 24-0 undefeated conference record. They also won the first ever regular season out of conference game, the first ever game at Nationals (consolation) and the first ever game at Nationals in the winners bracket taking them to a date with GVSU, the #2 team in the nation in the Quarterfinals.

Every single person on the team from Irish, Bryson, and Webb at attack, to the entire defense, and ALL the middies really had an impact on the game. For a team founded on hustle and emotion, this was the game I knew they could play all year. They played it exactly when they needed or wanted to depending on who you ask.

The Bucs left that day, not only having made history, but knowing that this was something they would never forget. As the players say on the team. LIOTF. On this day, they did, and there was no stopping them.

- Bill Bowman