Purdue University claimed the 2012 NCGAA hurling championship over Memorial Day weekend, beating hosts Stanford University in Sunday afternoon’s final. The tournament also featured full squads from UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis, meaning that the number of full squads participating doubled from last year’s inaugural championships in Chicago, when Indiana and Purdue had full teams and a third team was created from Berkeley, Stanford and Pittsburgh players. This year’s edition was also historic in that it was the first time the championship was hosted at a college campus.
The tournament started Saturday morning, perhaps fittingly, with a match between Stanford and Cal, the first two schools to play an intercollegiate match in North America. Stanford had swept through the California championships this year, but this match was close throughout, with just three points separating the teams as time ticked down in the second half. The Cardinal pulled away to win 4-6 (18) to 3-1 (10), but the tone was set for an intense weekend of hurling.
The next match, Purdue vs Davis, did not look that way at the beginning, as the midwesterners raced out to an 8-0 lead. But Davis — the newest team in the competition, having played competitive matches for just two years — came back and actually had a one point lead (3-3 to 1-8) at the half. Purdue’s experience won out in the end, though, as the match ended in a 5-15 (30) to 5-5 (20) Boliermakers victory.
After a lunch break, Davis was back at it against Stanford, and once again the story was much different from the CCGAA season — the ever-improving Davis squad was neck-and-neck with the hosts, only down a single point at the half. However, Stanford found its rhythm in the second half, ripping off a flurry of long range points and a few timely goals to grab a 4-18 (30) to 5-6 (21) win.
In the final match of a jam-packed Saturday, Cal and Purdue had themselves a goal-scoring bonanza — of the 47 total points in the match, 36 came from goals. Purdue opened the scoring with four straight goals, and while Berkeley came back to make a match of it, the final score ended up 7-8 (29) to 5-3 (18).
Given that the final two matches of the round-robin would be repeats of the already-determined final and third place matches, they were abandoned to allow for more rest on Sunday. That meant Sunday’s first match was the third place game between Cal and Davis, and what a match it was. Davis jumped out to a 15-1 lead to start the match, but the Golden Bears patiently clawed their way back into the game, cutting it to 16-9 at the half and eventually taking the lead at 17-16 in second half.
It looked like they had an incredible victory wrapped up with a 22-19 lead with just minutes left, but the referee awarded a free to Davis from about 25 yards out. Mitch Hennessy buried it into the corner of the net, and it was all square again. It was not to be Davis’ day, though, as Cal’s Gerard O’Reilly put a long range point over the bar, and Berkeley added a goal and a point as Davis pushed forward to equalize. The game of the tournament ended in a 5-12 (27) to 6-4 (22) Berkeley victory.
Unfortunately, the final could not match the third place game in excitement. It was physical and hard-fought by both teams, but Purdue took an early lead and took the Stanford midfield off of its game with swarming defense, not allowing them to play their attacking style. The Cardinal showed heart in mounting a late comeback, but it was too little too late, and Purdue iced the game with a few late goals as Stanford pushed its backs forward. Ironically, the final saw the largest margin of victory, at 5-15 (30) to 2-6 (12).
It was hard luck for a Stanford team missing three of its players out of town for the weekend, but Purdue were deserving winners. They played their best game when it mattered most, and executed to perfection. And while much was made of the numerous Irish players in their squad, the truth is that their American-born players were just as impressive. In the end, it was a great weekend for the Purdue hurling squad, and an even better one for college hurling as a whole.