Lacrosse is a game of runs. They caught fire there and we couldn’t recover. —BYU midfielder Zach Labrum
SALT LAKE CITY — It was a fun run for BYU's lacrosse team — the defending champs and its rival beg to differ — but the Cougars’ long-shot pursuit of a national championship came to an end Thursday night.
The Cougars played well for two and a half quarters before a disastrous third quarter proved costly in a 12-7 loss to Michigan State in the semifinals of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association tournament.
"I think obviously today didn’t turn out the way that we had hoped," BYU coach Matt Schneck said. "It’s great to get this far. You always want to get one more, right, so we’re a little sad about that. A hard-fought game today and hats off to Michigan State."
The seventh-seeded Cougars began this week’s tournament at the Salt Lake City Regional Athletic Complex with an impressive 10-7 win over the defending national champion, 10th-seeded Grand Canyon.
What happened next was even more impressive and surprising.
BYU avenged a regular-season loss to its rival — its first defeat to the Utes in 22 meetings — by mounting a riveting comeback victory in No. 2 seed Utah's final club tournament.
Utah, which will become an NCAA-sanctioned lacrosse team next season, gave up three straight goals to BYU in the fourth quarter Tuesday en route to its only loss of the season — and at the worst possible time. The Cougars won the quarterfinal after attack Chris Severson stunned the Utes (17-1) by scoring with six seconds remaining for the 10-9 victory.
"It was a great season for us. Obviously I think these guys are going to remember the win over Utah on Tuesday," Schneck said. "That was a big deal and so I hope that they’ll have some fond memories because of all those things."
BYU got off to a strong start Thursday thanks to an early Severson goal. Attack Chandler Wescott scored two goals and middie Connor Bernal punched one in as the Cougars were hanging tight with the third-seeded Spartans early in the third quarter.
Things quickly unraveled after Brett Braun put Michigan State up 5-4 with 11:58 remaining in the third quarter. Less than eight minutes later, the Spartans had scored six consecutive times as BYU struggled on faceoffs, keeping possession and fending off the aggressive MSU attack.
After giving his teammates an emotional postgame chat, midfielder Zach Labrum admitted this loss "stings a little bit" because the championship game was so close.
"Credit Michigan State. They're such a disciplined team," Labrum said. "You feed on getting possessions. It’s hard to play against them. They’re disciplined. They're methodical. ... Lacrosse is a game of runs. They caught fire there and we couldn’t recover."
Tanner Johnson, Severson and Wescott (who had a hat trick) made things interesting with three straight scores in the fourth quarter, but Michigan State's defense and goalie Kevin Boland held tough down the stretch to advance to Saturday's championship game against Chapman.
BYU finished the season with a 16-4 record and its 22nd tournament appearance.
"We pride ourselves on having a brotherhood," said Labrum, one of just four seniors on the young BYU team. "You don’t want to go out like that, but these guys never stop fighting. We saw it against Utah. We saw it today, getting down. No matter what the outcome was these guys never stop fighting. This team's got heart. They’ll be back next year."
Attack Bennett Osterink scored four goals and Braun tossed in three goals for Michigan State, which improved to 17-1-1 and advanced to the finals for the first time in program history. The Spartans will take on No. 1 Chapman (16-0) for the national club championship.
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