The #2 UCSB men’s lacrosse team will take on the #5 BYU Cougars this Friday at 2 p.m. at Harder Stadium in a highly anticipated out-of-conference matchup.
“BYU is a solid, solid team. Their strength is experience, and they’ve got a lot of it,” UCSB Head Coach Mike Allan said.
The Gauchos have won four straight against the Cougars in the last two years, but each of those wins came in closely played games. Should Santa Barbara continue its winning streak against BYU, it would only further enhance the status of Allan’s Gauchos as one of the premier teams in the country.
This will be Allan’s first year as head coach after a three-year tenure at UCLA. Allan played lacrosse for Princeton and was a member of the team that captured three consecutive national championships in the late nineties. He takes over for last season’s National Coach of the Year Scott DeMonte and inherits a team rich with talent, including four returning All-Americans in seniors Hank Caulkins, Tycho Suter and Tom Smith, as well as junior Will Patton. Last year’s squad went 21-2 on its way to a 4-6 loss to Colorado State in last year’s national championship game.
“Our biggest asset is our experience. A lot of these guys have played together three or four years, so they know what we’ve got to do to be successful,” said Allan.
The Gauchos have already found success in their first game of the season by demolishing Cal 12-3 last Friday. Junior attacker Luke Wilson had five points and Caulkins had four in a big win that saw almost the entire 45-man roster on the field for UCSB at some point.
With BYU looming, as well as eventual showdowns with #1 Colorado State, #3 Sonoma State and #5 Michigan down the road, Santa Barbara faces the nation’s toughest schedule. While it’s obvious they have both the numbers and talent to make it through the upcoming gauntlet, many have wondered how Allan is going to handle the team now that schools are gunning for this highly ranked UCSB squad. The Gauchos, though, have no questions about their coach.
“Coach Allan has been great. We’ve got so much talent that all we need to do is focus, and he’s getting us there,” Patton said.
“The transition has been smooth, and everyone’s quickly learning [Allan]’s systems,” senior midfielder Scott Holmes said.
Most of the changes Allan has implemented revolve around the offense, and if the Cal game is any indication, Santa Barbara is on the right track. A high-powered offense will be crucial against some of the powerhouses UCSB will face this season, but the Gauchos must rely on their defense if they hope to repeat last year’s success. Luckily, Santa Barbara returns its smothering defensive unit almost entirely intact, anchored by Suter.
With the Gauchos perched atop the national rankings and on the verge of greatness, Allan has constantly reminded his players that talent is not enough.
“I’ve been hammering at them that it starts with a team concept. We need to become a mentally tough team. If we do that, we can do some damage,” Allan said.