A position change and a huge pair of shoes to fill couldn’t stop sophomore attacker Nick Stratton from having a monster game. Filling in for All-American Luke Wilson, who is abroad this quarter, Stratton scored three goals, including a dazzling backhanded shot through traffic, to lead the defending national champion UCSB men’s lacrosse club to a 12-7 victory over Cal Poly on Saturday.
“I played midfield last year, but I played a lot of attack in high school,” Stratton said. “I’ve been practicing at the position this fall, although I’m not sure I’ll still be playing attack when the season starts.”
Playing without Wilson and fellow All-American Will Patton, the Gauchos still showed off their impressive depth.
“The depth of our program is really great,” club President Aaron Halimi said. “The All-Americans are great, but the guys behind them [who are] filling in are very good. I think it makes our program one of the best in the country.”
Halimi and six other Gauchos scored one goal apiece, and Eric Johnson, another former midfielder, scored two goals from the attack position.
The game was the second of two in a three-team preseason tournament involving UCLA, Cal Poly and UCSB. The Gauchos crushed UCLA 9-0 in the morning game, then immediately began preparing for Cal Poly, which narrowly lost to the Gauchos 1-0.
This year’s rematch was nothing like that battle of great defenses, as both teams managed to put a lot of points on the board, but Halimi said much of that could be attributed to rust.
“They’re a different squad than last year, and early on, both teams made a lot more mistakes. It’s still really, really early; the season doesn’t open until the end of January, so we’ve got lots of time to work.”
Gaucho Head Coach Mike Allan said he was pleased with his team’s effort and was not surprised to see the second-string fill in so well for the missing starters.
“We weren’t sure what we would get execution-wise, but effort-wise, we got 100 percent from everyone on the field,” Allan said. “We have a lot of experienced guys – a huge senior class returning. It’s really not an issue to have guys fill in.”
Though the regular season doesn’t start until Jan. 31, Allan said Saturday’s exhibition games were very promising.
“In the season, we’ll be a lot more sophisticated,” Allan said. “Today was just basic offense and defense that we’ll build off of in the season, but today was a good foundation.”
With a foundation like the one laid on Saturday, the achievements of the 2005 Gauchos could be towering.