Sunday's 14-5 home win over Southwestern University of Texas was the strong finish Colorado College men's lacrosse needed for an important stretch of its season.
The lopsided victory over the Pirates gave the Tigers a 3-2 record over their spring break, including a Friday home win over Otterbein (Ohio) that could be a huge factor in returning to the national Division 3 tournament.
Otterbein (3-3), a 2013 NCAA tournament participant along with CC, is one of the 40 Pool B independents competing for five tourney berths.
On Sunday, Tigers senior midfielder Jack Kreitler tallied three goals in the opening quarter and junior Gray Ritger scored with one second remaining in the first quarter for a 6-0 lead and the eventual game-winner over Southwestern in a nonconference game.
"Jack took it upon himself to get us off to a good start with three early goals," CC coach Sean Woods said.
"We knew we need to show them that this is our field and our game right away," Kreitler said.
The Tiger starters kept the ball in the Southwestern end of the field for almost the entire first quarter. The final three quarters were more competitive with CC's reserves outscoring the Pirates by one goal in the second half.
The Tigers (6-4) and 5-4 Pirates will likely meet again in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship in Texas on April 26.
But the three-team league, which includes winless Centenary (La.) College, does not have the seven required for an automatic berth. That makes each win and competitive nonconference loss important for CC's chances with the NCAA selection committee.
A 10-9 road loss to No. 11 Lynchburg (Va.) College and an 11-9 setback at perennial power Eastern University (Pa.) on March 14 and 16 should grab the committee's attention, Woods said, adding that strength of schedule, head-to-head results and win-loss record are the three main criteria.
"We still need to win out the rest of the way," Woods said. "We have the toughest schedule in Pool B so playing them tough should help us even though we lost."
Those tough losses helped a team relying on a number of underclassmen to mature, Kreitler said. That showed with a strong performance against an overmatched foe.
"Spring break was a business trip," he said. "We fell short against Eastern and Lynchburg but we fought as a team and those games helped us come together."