The Gaucho women’s lacrosse team ends their season with victories on and off the field. UCSB came home from St. Louis, Mo. with a sixth place finish in the annual Western Women’s Lacrosse League National Championship competition in addition to receiving the tournament’s Sportsmanship award.
The women entered the competition seeded sixth, but returned home to Santa Barbara ranked second in the WWLL. The three-day competition was a true testament to the hard work the Gauchos have put in during the year.
“We did very well this weekend,” UCSB Head Coach Diana Garcia said.
This was the first year that the UCSB women’s lacrosse team has been invited to the competition.
“This weekend we earned respect from coaches around the nation,” senior goalie and co-captain Melissa Shaw said.
Santa Barbara started off the tournament with a 19-2 victory over #11 ranked University of Texas, opening up the competition with a powerful lead.
“It was our first game at Nationals,” junior point Jessica Buttafuoco said. “We were stoked to get out there and play hard.”
The game was a special victory considering that last year the Gauchos terminated their contract with former UCSB Head Coach and new Texas Head Coach Patrick Hagan. The women were proud that they used this match as an opportunity to show Hagan that they have flourished in his absence.
“He always marked up on the usual UCLA players, and never realized the players we already had,” sophomore co-captain and second-home Candice West said. “We surprised him. We really showed him what we can do and what we could accomplish.”
Texas fired Hagan soon after the game.
Later that day UCSB went into their second match of the tournament against #3 University of Michigan. The 13-11 loss was a disappointing defeat to the Gauchos who had been in the lead for close to the entire game. Three minutes before the game could be officially tallied as a Gaucho triumph, the weather interfered.
“The rain started pouring so hard,” Buttafuoco said. “We were up by two and then lightning struck and we had to postpone our game.”
After 45 minutes, the game was called back into play and the Wolverines made a huge recovery with three goals, taking the win.
“We tried to keep our minds in the game during the break, but we just didn’t play as well as we would have liked,” West said.
In their 7-6 consolation match defeat against #10 Colorado State University, UCSB started with a quick 4-1 lead, but came across some difficulties and found itself tied at six points apiece.
“We had some internal issues,” West said. “It effected the team aspect of our playing, but luckily we pulled through.”
For the first two days of the tournament the weather was hot and muggy, followed by immense showers and lightning storms, which forced the women to compete on a local turf field.
“We have never played in those conditions,” Buttafuoco said. “It was a challenge.”
St. Louis cleared up for Santa Barbara’s last consolation game against #1 Navy.
“It was our goal the entire tournament to play this team!” Buttafuoco said.
The 10-8 loss did not cloud the internal victories the women felt.
“Even though we lost by two, in this game we played the best we have all year,” Buttafuoco said. “We won on the second scoreboard, and everyone gave it their 100 percent.”
Ending the tournament with sixth place was a victory for UCSB.
“We played fantastic this weekend,” Garcia said. “We only lost to the #1 and #3 ranked teams, and those were close games.”
The Gauchos camaraderie and good spirits did not go unnoticed as they were awarded the Sportsmanship award.
“The award was well deserved,” Shaw said. “We were excited to be there and it showed.”
#2 Cal Poly took home first in the WWLL competition, its fourth consecutive victory, but the Gauchos trailed by only one, seeded second behind the Mustangs.
Four Gauchos were chosen to be included in the Intercollegiate Lacrosse’s Division I All-Star teams. Freshman center Brooke Julicher and sophomore third home Katie Gong made the First Team All-Stars, while West and sophomore defensive cover point Katie Wolfson attained spots in the Second Team All-Stars.
“Out of all the players in league, this recognition is a big reward,” West said.