This year the Mustangs captured the Baggataway Cup once again, making them national champions for the fourth year in a row.
Hosted by McGill University, the Mustangs travelled to Montreal to compete against Canada’s top six teams.
Heading into the tournament ranked fourth of the six teams, the Mustangs had much to prove — after all, they were the reigning champions.
The 2019 regular season posed a lot of challenges for the Mustangs. The group felt as though they had under-performed in a lot of ways, and wondered if a victory at the Baggataway Cup would be hard to come by.
“The team performed below our expectations during the regular season and it was disappointing,” said Mustangs' head coach Jeremy Tallevi. “As a team, we felt we had more in the tank to give.”
With their title on the line, the Mustangs showed up to the stadium ready for action.
On Friday night, Western University played in the quarter final against Nipissing University. The Mustangs sauntered away with an 11-5 win, which helped build their confidence for tougher opponents who were yet to come.
The McGill University Martlets proved to be the Mustangs' most tenacious opponent.
This was no surprise. With a perfect 10-0 season, McGill was the top seed in the east division. The Martlets are a very reputable team with elite talent, and on top of it all, they had the home crowd advantage.
The Mustangs knew their battle in the semi-finals would be one for the books.
The Martlets got an early jump on the Mustangs and scored two goals in the first quarter. Western’s first successful offensive attack came from team captains Cody Ward and Keagan Croley. With a sharp pass from Croley, Ward was able to net the ball and put Western on the board.
This season, Ward was the second highest scoring player in the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association, bringing in an impressive 38 points for the Mustangs.
Despite the Mustangs' encouraging goal, McGill’s domination continued and it wasn’t until the second half that Western really found their game.
In the third and fourth quarter, Western’s offensive and defensive players started to align.
The Mustangs scored two goals in the third period and three in the fourth, only letting in one other goal from McGill in the waning minutes of the game.
The final score was 6-5 in favour of Western, and the Mustangs headed into the gold medal game knowing their greatest competitor was behind them.
Though the Trent University Excaliburs put up a good fight, the Mustangs led the scoreboard for almost the entire game.
Prized veteran Nikolai Farrus was among the Mustangs' top scorers of the tournament. He scored two goals in the championship game and was a dynamic offensive player throughout.
However, one of the top individual performances of the tournament came from Mustangs' goaltender Michael Orlando.
A first-year athlete, he had only played a single game in the regular season, one that proved to be a tough loss for the Mustangs. Orlando was thrown in to play during the championships and performed incredibly.
“He was a brick wall all weekend and played with the poise and confidence of a seasoned veteran,” said Tallevi. “He was the best goalie in the tournament allowing only five goals against in each of our games.”
With a few of the Mustangs' key players graduating in the coming year, Orlando effectively raised the bar for next year.
The Mustangs took the championship game 8-5 and walked away with yet another national championship title.
“We have battled through adversity as a team, and always found a way to succeed,” said Tallevi. “We were confident that we could claw our way back.”
Correction (10:52 a.m., Nov. 20): this article has been corrected to reflect that Western led for most of the game, not all of it.