Undefeated seems like a nice place to be for a team, but perfection in the rankings just isn’t good enough for the UCSB women’s lacrosse team these days.
The Gauchos downed St. John Fisher 14-7 Saturday on Cal Poly’s home field in San Luis Obispo and squashed conference foe Pomona-Pitzer 12-2 Sunday afternoon in Pomona. Santa Barbara improved to 10-0 this season and maintained its #1 national ranking in the U.S. Lacrosse Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associations for another week. UCSB secured the nation’s top spot Feb. 19 and 20 when it knocked off defending national champion University of Michigan and rival Cal Poly to win the Cal Poly Classic.
“We’re happy about the two wins, but the goal of each game should be that we can walk away feeling good about our effort,” senior defender Sarah McIntosh said.
Santa Barbara defeated St. John Fisher, a Division III competitor from upstate New York, fighting through an injury-ridden starting lineup. The Gauchos were sluggish to start the contest as St. John Fisher scored the game’s first goal before Santa Barbara got back on track.
“We’re definitely the team to beat right now, and that can be a hard thing,” junior attack Katie Gong said. “I like being the underdog. When you’re the # 1 team so early in the season, it can be hard to maintain that high level of intensity.”
Pomona-Pitzer, ranked #23 nationally, gave the Gauchos a fight in Sunday’s battle. Santa Barbara struggled in the first half and went into halftime with just a 3-1 advantage, but went on a 9-1 run to finish the game.
“We went into a timeout with three minutes left and our coach said that she demanded four more goals,” sophomore midfielder Shanna Mota said. “We couldn’t believe that we did it.”
The Gauchos hold a slight lead in the national polls over Cal Poly (5-1 overall) and Navy (8-0 overall) heading into Saturday’s brawl with the Mustangs in San Luis Obispo. While Navy is undefeated, Cal Poly has the nation’s sixth most strenuous strength of schedule and lost to UCSB last weekend by just a single goal late in the contest.
Two of Santa Barbara’s captains did not play in the two games over the weekend. Junior attack Candace West, suffering from foot and knee injuries, and senior attack Kristy Wilson, battling a severe back injury, were held out of the both days’ lineup. Gong, Santa Barbara’s leading scorer, also suffered multiple injuries over the weekend including a bruised right hand and left wrist.
UCSB has planned a light practice regimen to prepare for Saturday’s game against Cal Poly. It is still too early to know who will be healthy enough to compete against the Mustangs, Gong said. Even with a healthy lineup, Santa Barbara understands it will go head-to-head with a tough opponent.
“They are our closest opponent in terms of skill but really it’s a mental thing with them,” McIntosh said. “We’ve kept it close with them in the past, but we should be beating them by more than that if we play our game right.”