Orange County has played host to many players returning home for the 2014 MCLA National Championships, but none have had bigger games than Colorado’s Jack Cranston. Cranston, from nearby Santa Margarita, Calif., led his No. 2 Buffs team to a 12-10 victory over No. 6 UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals to earn a shot at the MCLA Division I championship on Saturday.
Cranston, who was voted captain by his teammates this season, is described by his coaches as a “quiet, but great kid.” Head coach John Galvin said that “Jack has been a leader for us all season, and he’s lucky to be surrounded by a lot of family here in Orange County.”
The Buffs were led by Cranston’s six goals in the win over UCSB, including four consecutive goals in the first half. This marked his second straight six point game, as he had two goals and four assists in Colorado’s quarterfinal win against No. 7 Michigan State.
Many of Cranston’s semifinal goals came while Colorado was trailing, and his play helped the Buffs stay in the game and ultimately get the win. Cranston’s first two tallies came only 15 seconds apart – on a lefty finish coming from behind the cage and then in transition off the ensuing face-off. He added two more to open the second quarter, but then was quiet until late in the third.
Most of the third quarter belonged to Santa Barbara, as three straight goals gave the lead back to the Gauchos with a score of 9-7. Cranston’s fifth goal came with 2:40 left in the third as he blew a top-shelf shot by UCSB goalie Conrad Carlson. Colorado leading scorer Riley Seidel, who had four points on the day with two goals and two assists, scored his second of the game just over a minute later. The two then connected for Cranston’s sixth to open the fourth quarter, and the teams then traded goals to end the game with Colorado on top.
After the game, Cranston said that you “have to hand it to Santa Barbara” for their great effort and great season. In the end, though, the semifinal’s hometown hero said no matter the outcome, the senior is happy to “end it here with my boys, my family.”
Colorado’s opponent in the championship game will be No. 1 Arizona State, a team that also has some Orange County natives on the roster. One of them, midfielder Cooper Pickell, has been one of ASU’s top players the last three seasons and has scored seven goals through the first three tournament games. When asked about being back in Orange County at Chapman Stadium, Pickell said that he “always imagined playing here,” reminiscing to when he would attend Chapman games as a youth and high school player.
Echoing the sentiments of all the SoCal natives playing in the national tournament, Pickell is “excited to play in front of family and friends on a national stage.”
The Buffs and Sun Devils meet Saturday at 3:00 PM for the national championship.
(This article was also published on MCLA.us)