Two out of three goals ain’t bad but, unfortunately, the UCSB men’s lacrosse team fell short of the most important goal – a national championship.
Santa Barbara lost to Colorado State University on May 10 in St. Louis, Mo., in the national championship game.
After their most successful season in recent history, the Gauchos (21-2) finished the year in spectacular fashion, making their first appearance in the U.S. Lacrosse Men’s Division Intercollegiate Associates National Championships since 1997. A first-round 15-7 win over Washington University of St. Louis ignited an already motivated squad.
Coming off UCSB’s first Western Collegiate Lacrosse League championship since 1987 and a #1 seeding at the national tournament, the Gauchos were ready to return from St. Louis as champions.
“It was great that the seniors got to go out as league champions even if they weren’t able to win nationals,” UCSB Head Coach Scott DeMonte said.
The 17-10 win against Florida and the 10-9 victory over BYU, a rematch from earlier this season, in the quarterfinals and semifinals paved the way for the Gauchos’ championship appearance. Unfortunately, the Florida Rams’ defense would win the matchup in the finals, causing Santa Barbara to make costly and untimely mistakes in front of the net.
The team may not have ended its season as well as it wanted to, but the Gauchos were able to complete two of their goals. Santa Barbara never lost a home game, and it won the WCLL championships. UCSB also finished #2 in the nation, not bad for a team from California in a sport dominated by East Coast squads.
“This year we had two secret weapons: the Enforcer [senior Peter Gerritz] and XXX [freshman Kanishka Reddy]. They were definitely the spark we needed,” senior co-captain Will Crow said.
The team was not just comprised of a few pivotal players; it took the entire team to get to St. Louis. Sophomore goalie Ryan Brittain led the team’s defense behind the net with a 67 percent save average, while Rookie of the Year Damon Conklin made a huge impact in a sea of experienced teammates.
No team can be complete without a motivational and inspiring coach. DeMonte pushed the Gauchos to excel and was rewarded for his efforts with both the WCLL Coach of the Year and USLIA Coach of the Year awards.
Graduating seniors know they are leaving behind a legacy while gaining a lifetime’s worth of good memories. They will also be leaving behind the coach who came to Santa Barbara the same year that they began their careers as Gauchos.
“Looking back on it, it’s not about the wins and losses. It’s more about all the friends I made,” Crow said.
Next year the Gauchos will regain three players who studied abroad this year. With only four seniors leaving to graduation, the 2003-04 squad should be as formidable as the one that made it to the finals. If this year was any indication of how well an experienced team can do, next year’s team should again be in the running for a national title. With captains like junior Hank Caulkins, junior Tycho Stuter and sophomore national tournament MVP Will Patton, the team is looking forward to great things.
“Next year, we know that we have to start over,” DeMonte said. “We will still play game by game.”
The 2002-03 season has ended but the expectations for the 2003-04 season are unprecedented, with a WCLL league championship to defend and a winning record at home to retain.
Next year, maybe a national title will be added to the trophy stand.