While the rest of the school was preparing for finals week, the UC Santa Barbara men’s and women’s lacrosse teams were fighting for supremacy in their respective leagues. On March 6, the second-ranked women took a tough 12-11 loss from first ranked Santa Clara, but rebounded a week later with a dominating 14-5 victory over 7th ranked UCLA on March 12 to move to 10-1 on the season. After a slow start to the season, the men extended their win streak to five with three straight March wins before falling to Arizona State in their most recent game. The loss brought their record to 6-4 overall.
When #1 Santa Clara arrived in Santa Barbara, the Gauchos knew they were in for a fight. Both UCSB and the Broncos were unbeaten at the time, and neither seemed interested in getting a notch in the loss column. SC opened the scoring in the first five minutes, capitalizing on a dropped pass by the Gauchos in Bronco territory. UCSB answered by scoring three unanswered goals, but after that neither team was able to gain a significant advantage. After one half of play, the Gauchos, who played a superb defensive half and gave it all they had against Santa Clara’s two-time All-American goalie, nursed a 6-5 lead.
“It was our best defensive game of the year, and it came at the right time, Head Coach Paul Ramsey said. “If we hadn’t [played well defensively] we’d have been in a deep hole all game.”
The pace of the game did not change in the second half. Both teams fought tooth and nail for every possession and each goal. With one minute left in the game and the Broncos up 12-10, Santa Barbara senior midfielder Maggie Aker scored to bring the Gauchos within one goal of overtime, but the effort fell just short as the final whistle sounded. Though sophomore goalie Jeni Centner had matched Santa Clara’s goalie with 16 saves, the Gauchos were outshot 39-29 and won fewer draws and ground balls than the Broncos.
“We won only three of 12 draws in the first half and five of 13 in the second half,” Ramsey said.” To even be close in a game like that means we outplayed them everywhere else.”
Six days later, the Gauchos took the field to face the seventh-ranked Bruins, and played as if the tough loss to Santa Clara had never happened. Santa Barbara came out and scored four times before the Bruins knew what hit them, and ended up outscoring UCLA 7-3 in the first half. The Bruins scored first early in the second half, but were shut out for the next 24 minutes as the Gauchos went on a seven-goal run. UCSB went on to decimate the Bruins in a 14-5 victory, due in part to All-American attacker Samantha Lutz, who, in her second game back from injury led all scorers with two goals and four assists.
“We’re deeper now on offense, but the rest of the season will certainly not get easier,” Ramsey said.
After building momentum for the first time all season with back-to-back wins at UCLA and USD, the men’s lacrosse team looked to continue their success at home against Sonoma State on March 6. After outscoring Sonoma 3-1 in the first half, UCSB did not lose a step in the second period and cruised on to a 9-5 win to send the Seawolves packing. Days later, UCSB held the University of Florida to just one goal in the first half while scoring seven of their own. In the second half UCSB was actually outscored by one, but the effort was too little too late on Florida’s part, and the Gauchos locked down a 15-10 win. Senior faceoff specialist Jake Kozonis was instrumental in the victory, winning 16 faceoffs by game’s end to give the Gauchos a number of pivotal possessions.
“Our face off team is an important part of our game plan, and any time you can keep the ball out of the other team’s hands you are doing something right,” Head Coach Mario Waibel said.
On March 23, the Gauchos earned a 9-4 victory against the University of Arizona. Though the Wildcats outshot UCSB 35-30, senior goalie Zack Carson made 19 saves to secure the win. Two days later, Santa Barbara’s momentum snapped at Arizona State as the Sun Devils outscored UCSB 9-2 in the first half. Though the Gauchos managed to get back on their feet and play the second half to a 5-5 tie, they were unable to mount a true comeback attempt and left the field after a 14-7 loss.
“These guys are battle tested against top competition and keep growing from each experience,” Waibel said.
The men, who are now 6-4 after starting the season 1-3, have four games left in the regular season, all of which are division games. Their next game is at home on Saturday against Claremont. The women have just two games left in their regular season. Their next game is also on Saturday, but will be at #4 Cal Poly.