Following a stunning 13-10 victory over UC Berkeley, the Cal Poly men’s club lacrosse team sits atop of the Western Collegiate Lacrosse League. The Mustangs are undefeated in divisional play at 7-0, boasting a 14-2 record this season and are in a great position to claim their first national championship title.
But the Mustangs’ dominating performance is no fluke.
Last year, the team made it to the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse League National Championship finals for the second time in club history, falling to the Chapman University Panthers 9-5.
“That was a tough game and a tough loss, to make it all that way and get outmatched,” sophomore attackman Guralas said.
This season, the Mustangs already claimed the top seed in the upcoming Western Conference Championships and a bid to the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) National Championship tournament. The team’s only losses this season were one-goal decisions earlier in the season — 6-5 to Brigham Young Feb. 25 and 5-4 to Colorado in overtime March 10.
The Mustangs haven’t lost since the Colorado game and have won their last eight games by a combined 118-56, gaining momentum to again become strong contenders to win it all.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the team,” Guralas, who has a team-high 42 goals this season, said. “There’s not a guy on this team that doesn’t want to go to
The roster is stacked with experienced players, having lost only two from last season. Also returning is head coach Bobby Dabrieo, who doesn’t have any complaints with the attitude of the Mustangs.
“They have a lot of passion for the sport,” Dabrieo said. “These guys love coming out here, competing and working. That’s a great combination for a team.”
Dabrieo, who led the team to a second place finish in his first year as head coach, attributes much of the Mustangs’ success to the team’s strong defense.
“[Our defense] is the best in the country,” Guralas said. “It all starts with our goalie [senior Sean Pihl]; he’s an absolute stud.” Pihl has guarded the Mustangs’ goal for four years and currently boasts a personal-best .682 save percentage.
“He’s [an] All-American and he’s been the best player on our team all four years,” senior defenseman and team captain Jackson Cole said. Pihl was chosen as First Team All-Conference Goalie for the past three years and Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. Put simply, “he just makes a lot of saves,” Cole said.
With the Mustangs’ defense shutting down opponents, Dabrieo has been looking to make improvements in his team’s offense.
“We haven’t done a great job of shooting this year, that’s why we haven’t scored a lot of goals,” Dabrieo said.
But the Mustangs scoring has improved as over half of their season’s goals have been produced in their last eight games. Guralas leads the team in goals for the second year in a row. Junior attackman John Corbolotti and sophomore midfielder Mitch Stickney have each posted 23 goals this season.
In last week’s win over UC Berkeley, Stickney buried a game-high five goals, earning him the MCLA Division Commanding Performance of the Week award.
“When our offense plays and moves together like we did, there’s nothing that’s going to stop us,” Guralas said.
More commanding performances will be needed for the Mustangs to reach the finals this year. The Western Conference Championships begins Saturday when Cal Poly faces Stanford University at Novato High School. The National Championships take place Monday, May 8 in Orange County.
“We’re winning the [National Championship] this year,” Guralas said. “We’re bringing it home to San Luis Obispo.”