The Cal State Fullerton men’s lacrosse team lost in the finals of the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference tournament Sunday for the third consecutive season. The Titans (12-2, 4-0 SLC) played against the Concordia Eagles, the regular season champions of the SLC South division. The Eagles (7-7, 4-0 SLC) lost to the Titans in an earlier matchup this season, 11-9.
In their previous matchup, the Titan defense held Eagles leading scorer Josh Fagan to just one goal. The Titans were unable to contain Fagan this time around.
CSUF was playing without senior defenseman Jackson Wyatt, who tore his ACL Saturday in the game against UC San Diego. Wyatt is a leader of the Titan defense and frequently matches up against the opponent’s top scorer.
“He usually takes their best player and shuts him down. He’s very vocal and it’s really nice to have on the back side knowing somebody is there talking to you,” junior defenseman Austin Ray said of Wyatt.
Freshman Mathew Mantovan began the scoring for the Eagles, putting in a goal with a man advantage after a pushing penalty on junior Walter Wakeman.
After a double penalty on Ray and senior Austin Garcia, the Eagles had a six-on-four advantage for one minute. Fagan scored with the two-man advantage to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead. The Titans managed to cut the Eagles lead in half in the last two minutes of the first quarter.
Jeff Lyon fed fellow senior Gabe Alamillo for a goal to put the Titans on the board. Just 60 seconds later, sophomore Matt Martinez scored.
After a holding penalty on Concordia, Alamillo scored with the man advantage. Three minutes later, despite being shorthanded, the Eagles managed to control the ball and get a goal by freshman Sean Wilson.
Lyon scored two goals over a three-minute span to put the Titans within one goal of the Eagles. Titans’ goalie Chris Laurino stayed tough in the net despite his defense playing with a man down for 15 minutes of the game. Laurino made a save and junior attackman Sean Lee picked up the rebound and scored. The Titans’ 15 penalty minutes were the most in any of their games this season.
“You’re never going to win a game when you have 15 minutes of penalties,” Head Coach Mike Ansel said.
At times, the officials swallowed their whistles, letting the players play without interruption. Other times, the officials threw the flag on what appeared to be minor violations. Fans from both teams, as well as both coaches, were vocal about their frustration with the officiating.
“They’re calling different things. You feel one ref out and he’s letting you play a little bit and then the other guy is not going to let you go,” Ray said. “It’s really difficult to get in a rhythm out there during that.”
Almost every player noticed the inconsistent calls by the referees.
“Typically during the playoffs they let you play a little bit more,” Alamillo said. “A couple of calls definitely dictated the game and set the tone.”
Concordia pulled away in the second half, scoring the first four goals of the half.
Fagan had four goals and the Titans began to focus on him, which led to other Eagles finding open shots.
The win clinches Concordia a spot in the National Championship tournament. The loss put the Titans at the mercy of the selection committee, who would decide if the Titans resume was solid enough to earn them an at-large berth in the tournament. However, the committee decided the Titans were not worthy of a spot in the tournament.
Despite the early end to the season, the 2014 Titans finished with the best record in the program’s seven-year history.