After the UCSB women’s lacrosse team’s dominance in the league playoffs over the weekend, there’s little left that it must do to prove that it is the best team in the nation.
The Gauchos won the Western Women’s Lacrosse League Championships over the weekend in Davis, blasting by #7 seed UCLA 11-7 and #3 seed Arizona State 16-7 on Saturday and then rival #1 seed Cal Poly 9-6 on Sunday afternoon.
Santa Barbara (17-1 overall) avenged an April 15 loss to the Mustangs at Storke Field and prevented the central coast foes from winning their fifth straight league title. Sunday’s championship win marks the Gauchos’ third victory in four tries against Cal Poly this season and assures them an automatic bid to the 16-team U.S. Lacrosse Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates National Championships in Blaine, Minn. on May 10-14.
“Our whole team played amazing and the scores didn’t necessarily reflect how good we were playing,” said sophomore Shanna Mota, who tallied eight goals over three games, including a five-goal effort in the win over the Sun Devils. “We knew what it felt like after losing to them last week and we were stronger because of it.”
On Sunday, Cal Poly seized a 3-1 advantage by halftime and stretched the lead to 5-1 in the second half. But the Gauchos rallied and tied the game 5-5 before pulling away late to win by three. Because of the loss to the Mustangs on April 15, Santa Barbara received the #2 seed in the tournament even though it held the nation’s top spot for most of the season.
“It was hard losing [to Cal Poly on April 15] but we knew we had a chance at redemption,” junior Katie Gong said. “One of the reasons they are so good is because they never give up and we knew it was going to be a tough game.”
Santa Barbara, runner-up at the national championships last season, has never won a national title. The Gauchos will likely receive the #1 seed in the tournament when pairings are decided next week and UCSB will have a good chance of playing Cal Poly for a fifth time in the playoffs.
Even though Santa Barbara flirted with an undefeated season until last week, Mota said the Gauchos needed a defeat to stay hungry.
“I think for any team, you need to feel defeat,” Mota said. “It’s definitely fired us up.”