You can’t stop them, you can only hope to contain them.
The UCSB men’s lacrosse team continued its season-long tear with a triumph in the Western Collegiate Lacrosse League over the weekend. The #1 nationally ranked Gauchos trashed Loyola Marymount in the quarterfinals only to draw arch-rival Cal Poly for the May 1 semifinal.
Santa Barbara won a close decision 5-4 despite a strong performance by the #10 nationally ranked Mustangs.
“They had a really good game plan, they came out fired up,” senior goalkeeper Mike Wood said. “We might have looked past them. It was a combination of that and their goalie played really well.”
Although the Gauchos led the match from start to finish, the result was much closer than the 9-4 thrashing they handed Cal Poly earlier in the year on Feb. 11. Even if their performance was somewhat lackadaisical compared to what they had expected, they were running on all cylinders for the finals.
Last Sunday, Santa Barbara returned to true form against #4 nationally ranked Arizona State University. The Gauchos won a one-sided match to capture the title with an 11-1 stomping, showing why they are the #1 ranked team in the nation.
“Before the game some alumni addressed us and gave a really emotional talk,” Wood said. “They told us that we were a great team that was just missing a few elements and that our team has come a really long way, and that the team is far more important than the individuals. It really fired us up.”
The 11-1 final score was much more appealing than the close 9-8 decision UCSB won on March 7 in Tucson, Arizona. Santa Barbara showed the poise necessary to bounce back from a subpar performance.
“[The Cal Poly match] gave us a real wake-up call,” sophomore midfielder Nick Schooler said. “It showed us we aren’t as good as we think we are.”
After conquering the WCLL south, Santa Barbara’s next endeavor will be the U.S. Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates National Championships, held May 12-15 in St. Louis, Mo. The Gauchos will defend their #1 seed in the field of 16 squads.
“We have a good chance to take it all as long as we stay focused and aren’t overly cocky,” Wood said.
While the top seed receives the best route to the championship, Schooler would much rather have the role of the underdog.
“I would rather be the underdog. We’ve got a bull’s-eye on our backs; everyone has been after us all year.”