Sitting out for the final home game of his collegiate career didn’t discourage Cal Poly Lacrosse Club team senior goalie Sean Pihl.
Because he pulled his right hamstring just five minutes into a game, the All-American goalie was forced to sit on the sidelines for his senior night game.
“It was the first game in four years that I didn’t suit up for,” Pihl said.
For Pihl, the injury was a wake-up call — this was his last year of collegiate competition.
“I knew the end was coming all along,” Pihl said. “But that weekend made me think, ‘Wow, it’s really almost over.’”
Who is Sean Pihl?
The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Tustin, California-native received First Team All-Conference honors since his freshman year, Defensive Player of the Year for the past two years and, as of last week, First Team All-American in Division I Men’s Lacrosse.
Pihl was back between the pipes for the first game of the postseason as the Mustangs took down Stanford University 14-8 at the Western Conference Championship. He notched 14 saves in his first game back in the net.
“The Stanford game was a little rocky,” Pihl said. “But it took that one game to get back in my groove.”
The Mustangs continued their winning ways after the victory over Stanford to shut down UC Berkeley 10-8 as Pihl backstopped the Mustangs for his third Western Conference Championship. The club has a winning tradition fueled by more than just superstitions.
“[Our defense] is the best in the country,” sophomore attackman AJ Guralas said. “It all starts with our goalie [Pihl]; he’s an absolute stud.”
Pihl’s teammates know they can trust him in the net. They also know that, like many other athletes, Pihl has his own share of superstitions for game days. On the field, he can only step over lines with his left foot. After every goal, he high fives his defensemen in a particular order. Most important of all, his teammates can never step into his goalie’s crease. It’s a series of ceremonies that contribute to his confidence in net.
“If I’m mentally comfortable, then I’m good,” Pihl said.
According to senior defenseman and team captain Jackson Cole, these superstitions bring in the saves.
“He’s been the best player on our team all four years,” Cole said. “He just makes a lot of saves.”
However, Pihl is unwilling to take sole credit for his team’s success.
“All four years I’ve been surrounded by killer defensemen who make my job easier,” Pihl said.
That confidence helped him feel reassured watching his team while injured.
Back to the final game
That was the case in the final game of the regular season, another matchup against UC Berkeley, and the Mustangs were forced to put sophomore goalie Anthony Epshetyn in net.
“When [Epshetyn] was in net, I had 100 percent confidence in him,” Pihl said. “Winning the biggest game of the year without me showed how good we are when everyone plays together as a team.”
Sitting on the sidelines allowed Pihl to return to the field with a new sense of purpose.
“From then on, I tried to have a different mentality,” Pihl said. “To appreciate playing lacrosse at Cal Poly with some of my best friends.”
Despite the postseason coming to an early end when Virginia Tech eliminated the Mustangs 9-5 in the first round of the National Championship, Pihl has hope for the future of the club.
“I think [head coach Bobby Dabrieo] has done a good job of building on the tradition when he came in last year,” Pihl said. “I’m excited to see what’s in store for Cal Poly Lacrosse.”