The UCLA Bruins (8-3, 3-1) and USC Trojans (6-9, 2-3) faced off in an intense “Battle for LA” last Wednesday, April 15, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Sponsored by Major League Lacrosse and Body By Jake founder, Jake Steinfeld, the game marked only the second time lacrosse had been played in the historic stadium. The first having been during the 1932 Olympic Games when Johns Hopkins, representing the United States, took down the Canadians in the best 2 out of 3 games during exhibition matches played in front of nearly 75,000 spectators.
The event was the 26th meeting all-time between the rival schools. UCLA has won 22 of those battles, their last loss to USC was back in 2008.
Henry Armistead led the charge for the Trojans, netting 6 goals in the contest. Goaltender Christian Davey saved 15 of 19 shots and Jack Gilchrist blanketed the midfield with 7 ground balls, 2 goals and 1 assist.
Although UCLA goalie Nate Liebes was able to make 17 saves, it wasn’t enough to stop the USC offense who took more shots on cage than a man should be capable to count. Basically Armistead headlined a crew of Trojan warriors who showed up to battle relentlessly, unafraid to get in a ground ball scrum or shoot the ball from an ungodly eighteen yards out.
Five different UCLA players scored one goal a piece, making the final score 13-5. While the scoring differential may not reflect it, an unselfish “everyone gets a touch” style of offense is what really kept UCLA in the game. Every offensive player who stepped on the Memorial Coliseum grass seemed reliable enough, but things just weren’t the same on the opposite end.
Throughout the game, USC’s offense never ceased to cross the midline determined to put the ball in the cage. Meanwhile the Bruins defensive unit was helpless, as if they had forgotten the game was going to be that day. Inevitably this led to some bad news for the passionate UCLA crowd in attendance.
As the game ended, the emotions of each team soared to two opposite extremes. The Trojans ecstatic, the Bruins devastated. Then came presentation of an all new trophy donated by Jake to commemorate the rivalry, which of course the USC players hoisted proudly.
Heading into LA Memorial Coliseum, the UCLA Bruins had won 7 of their previous 8 games, having already clinched a spot in the 2015 SLC playoffs. A few days following the loss, they found themselves with a #2 seeding and a home game in the first round of playoffs. The Bruins take on San Diego State (15-3, 2-2) on Saturday.
Meanwhile, while the USC Trojans did not make the SLC playoffs, they were able to end their season with a solid win on a stage many other athletes only dream of playing on.
And while it’s true there were far fewer than 75,000 fans in the stands for this game in 2015 (our Instagram following was sure to point that out), it represented an significant milestone for the USC men’s lacrosse program and all those who are a part of the greater Los Angeles lacrosse community. Thanks to the support of Jake Steinfeld, Charles Meister and others involved, the University of Southern California Athletics Department recognized, endorsed and empowered growth of the men’s game.
Keep that kind of momentum going and the excitement surrounding USC vs. UCLA in men’s lacrosse is sure to grow exponentially, just as it has in every other sport, to become a mainstay in rivalry discussions for years to come. Not just amongst LA lacrosse fans, either.
Photo Credit: Zach Heffner / Verdict Digital