Former Steamboat players fall just short of landing national title with the University of Colorado

John F. Russell

— The University of Colorado club lacrosse team came up one goal and one victory short of landing its second-straight title at the 2015 MCLA National Championships Saturday at Chapman Stadium in southern California.

“It was a real bummer,” said Penn Lukens, who is a sophomore on the University of Colorado team. Lukens is one of three former Steamboat Springs High School players on the CU team. “We felt like we dominated in every aspect of the game with the exception of the score.”

Colorado, the No. 3-seeded team in the tournament, topped Texas State 8-5 in the opening round May 11, then beat Georgia Tech 12-7 in the quarterfinals May 12 and advanced to the championship game with a thrilling 12-11 win over Virginia Tech in the semifinals May 14.

“I think the Georgia Tech game or the Virginia Tech game were the highlights,” Lukens said. “The game-winning goal in the Virginia game made ESPN’s top plays. It’s fun to see your team on ESPN.”

The overtime victory over Virginia Tech earned the Buffaloes a shot at No. 1-seeded Grand Canyon University for the title May 16. That contest came down to a single goal with the University of Colorado on the wrong side of a 9-8 score.

As a team, the Buffaloes fired more than 50 shots on goal during the game, but in the end, could only come up with eight goals.

“We just had problems getting the ball in the back of the cage,” Lukens said.

Lukens was the only former Steamboat Springs players to see acton in the championship game. Ben Wharton, a freshman, didn’t see any action in the final two games, but he did score a goal in the quarterfinal game against Georgia Tech, which Colorado won 12-7.

University of Colorado senior Grant McCannon also played for the team but didn’t see any action in the championship contest.

“It was really cool to be a part of the type of program they have in Boulder,” Wharton said. “It’s a step up from high school. We have players from all over the country and several that have played at a Division 1 school before coming to Boulder.”

Wharton said he loved being on the sidelines for the final two games, and he was disappointed that Colorado could not come away with the title.

“It just makes you want to get back and take another shot,” Wharton said. “I think everybody on this team is ready to get back on the field for another shot. Nobody wants to take any time off, and we are all ready to start summer programs.”

For senior Grant McCannon, who has already graduated, this year’s championship game was his last. McCannon played on the team as a freshman, but school and travel forced him to leave the team his sophomore and junior years. He returned this year, but an injury kept him off the field for the last several games.

“I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t win,” McCannon said. “It was a special opportunity to be a part of something like this. It’s something that I will always remember. It would have been nice to win the title, but things don’t always go your way.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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