What do you do when you achieve your dreams?
If you are the recently-ranked #1 UCSB men’s lacrosse club team, you keep pushing until you reach the national championship game.
The Gauchos achieved one of the biggest upsets in their history with a 14-9 win at former #1 Sonoma State on Sunday to clinch the team’s fourth Western Collegiate Lacrosse League Championship title. The Seawolves have not lost at home since 1998. With the victory, Santa Barbara earned its first state championship since 1987 and avenged a loss to Sonoma on March 9.
“I am extremely proud of our team,” UCSB Head Coach and 2003 WCLL Coach of the Year Scott Demonte said. “It took a while to sink in [that we beat them].”
Senior Ben Schooler led Santa Barbara (18-1) with two goals. Sophomore Luke Wilson chipped in seven assists against Sonoma. Schooler’s first goal in the opening minute of play jumpstarted the Gaucho offense, and UCSB opened an impressive 6-2 lead with 12:26 left in the second quarter.
With the Gauchos up 7-4 at halftime, there was little left for the team to do but hold off the usually consistent and dominating Seawolves. UCSB was able to impressively handle Sonoma State and dominate throughout the entire game, keeping the Seawolves out of the goal. Sophomore goaltender Ryan Brittain, the game’s defensive MVP, bolstered the rock-hard defense with 18 saves.
At the end of the third quarter, the game was all but over with Santa Barbara up 12-5. But in the last quarter, Sonoma State was able to get to the net and score four quick goals. However, the Wolves could not overcome the huge deficit.
“It was great to see the team go that far,” freshman Lewis Kubitz said. “The team really got fired up, especially in the first half.”
Santa Barbara earned 27 out of 30 first place votes in the national poll after the impressive victory on Sunday.
The first place votes helped the Gauchos earn a top seed at the national tournament in St. Louis, Mo. UCSB plays Washington University in St. Louis on May 7 in the first round of this year’s tourney. With one of the strongest squads the school has ever produced, the Gauchos remain confident that they will be able to achieve their third and final team goal of a national championship.
“The loss against Sonoma [on March 9] was probably the best thing that could have happened to us,” DeMonte said. “We have improved a lot. As long as we stay confident and we’re disciplined, we can do whatever we want.”
The national championship game will be held May 10.