UCSB men’s and women’s lacrosse are planning for the championships this season.

For the past three years, the men’s lacrosse team has taken fourth, third and second place respectively in the national lacrosse championships. This leaves only one option for the squad this year – take first place and secure UCSB’s first ever lacrosse national championship.

After graduating only four top players in 2003, men’s lacrosse returns this season with the core of its lineup, providing the Gauchos with coveted experience.

“We have a deep team,” freshman midfielder and team representative Nick Schooler said. “We have solid players at every position.”

The men also have three returning All-Americans on offense – junior Hank Caulkins, sophomore Will Patton, and junior Tom Smith – and two on defense, Tycho Suter and sophomore Ryan Brittain. The team gained a large number of freshmen this year, many of whom are inexperienced but fit the prototype and should compete well this season. The Gauchos are confident that by taking it one step at a time, Santa Barbara will win the division, league and ultimately the nationals.

USCB men’s lacrosse also sports a new coach this year, Mike Allan. Last season, UCSB Head Coach Scott DeMonte, the 2002 Coach of the Year, left Santa Barbara. The Gauchos came into the season not knowing what to expect. Allan, a four-year former coach for UCLA’s club team, allowed for a smooth transition. Will Patton, junior midfielder, explained that Allan is very knowledgeable about lacrosse and the team respects and responds to Allan well.

“Allan is the best guy for the job. Already you can tell the team hasn’t missed a beat,” senior midfielder Scott Holmes said.

The official lacrosse season does not begin until January, with UCSB playing club teams from Pac-10 schools like Stanford and Cal, Division III schools like MIT, and its biggest rival, Sonoma State. In early November, the team will compete in a preseason benefit tournament at UCLA. While the men just began practice last week, both coach and players look forward to a successful season.

“I’m very excited to be at Santa Barbara and looking forward to the season. I’m blessed to have such a great group of guys with incredible depth,” head coach Mike Allan said.

UCSB’s women’s lacrosse teams also looks forward to a winning season. Because of such a large interest, there will be three women’s lacrosse teams. The A-team will consist of the top 18 to 20 women, competing at the Division I level. Another new addition, Diana Garcia, takes over as head coach. The two B-teams will consist of approximately 25 women each, compete in Division II, focus more on skill building and gaining experience, and will be coached by Alison Ratliff. With two B-teams, more women will have the chance to play and the opportunity to refine their skills before reaching the varsity level.

Garcia, a former player at Colorado State, coached lacrosse at Thatcher and Laguna Blanca high schools. She feels that she can bring her passion for lacrosse to UCSB’s program.

“I feel I have a lot of experience and a positive attitude. I love lacrosse and want to see it grow. I want to bring my love and enthusiasm to the girls,” Garcia said.

In the 2002-2003 season, the A-team took third place in the Western Women’s Lacrosse League Southern Division Championships and placed second at the Santa Barbara Shootout. This year, the women plan to use their experience and skills to be even more successful. The core of the women for all teams returned.

“Our biggest asset is speed. We have the ability to run the whole game,” Ratliff said.

Both lacrosse teams have the advantage of experience and skill, which should lead them to victories this season.