BYU is the 2021 MCLA Invitational champions!
It may not count as its official fifth national championship, but BYU is once again on top of the MCLA after winning the 2021 MCLA Invitational. The Cougars, the No. 2 seed in the West for this year’s MCLA Invitational (an eight-team tournament designed to act as a sort of quasi-nationals in a season majorly affected by COVID-19), defeated No. 7 Chapman, 16-9, in the title game. As we predicted in our tournament preview (humble brag), the Cougars avenged a one-goal regular season loss to the Panthers.
The tournament itself went smoothly, with all games being played. The championship matchup was set after BYU took down the East’s No. 1 seed, Georgia Tech, and Chapman eliminated No. 2 in the East, Clemson. For the Cougars, the championship actually marked their largest margin of victory of the tournament, having advanced out of the first round with a 10-7 triumph and the semis with a 19-15 barnburner of a win.
Despite giving up 15 goals in the semifinals, and despite going down 4-1 to start the game, BYU’s defense led the charge. Goalie Mason Moon, a former All-American and likely to be one again shortly, helped lead the way with 11 saves on the day, including holding Chapman scoreless in the second quarter, and BYU rallied to take a 6-4 lead into halftime. Multiple goalie changes couldn’t right the ship for the Panthers, as three goalies combined for 12 saves. Chapman managed five goals in the second half, while the Cougars scored five in both the third and fourth quarters to pull away for the victory.
Fitting the theme of showcasing the West Coast’s lacrosse talent in this tournament, sophomore Jake Halversen, who hails from Beaverton, Oregon, was named the Player of the Game in the championship, racking up five goals. Seth Garff, of Danville, California, finished second in goals in the contest with four. Those two Cougars alone scored nine goals, the same as Chapman.
BYU has no reason to not anticipate remaining a contender. Its two leading scorers against Chapman were both sophomores and both with freshman-level eligibility after last year’s season was cancelled. Coach Matt Schneck should be returning the vast majority of his roster for 2022, though there’s always the potential to lose a few of the younger guys to missions, as the team once lost Moon for a two-year stint.
For the Panthers, they potentially say goodbye to an incredibly strong senior class, as three of their four top scorers are now set to potentially graduate. However, attackmen George McGuirk and Ethan Smith do have an extra year of eligibility should they choose to return to Chapman. Whatever happens, coach Dallas Hartley will almost certainly have his Panthers back in contention for 2022. The 2021 season marked the fourth time in five years that Chapman has been in the final four.