After two dominating victories, the UCSB men’s lacrosse team will go Wolverine hunting in search of a berth in the national championship title game.
The #2 Gauchos (19-2 overall, 4-0 in the Western Collegiate Lacrosse League) defeated #15 Minnesota and #7 Virginia Tech in the first two rounds of the MDIA National Championships, setting up a semifinal match against #3 Michigan.
“We’re sticking to our game plan and just doing everything that the coaches tell us to do; it’s really working for us right now,” senior co-captain Will Patton said.
In Tuesday’s first-round game, the Gauchos jumped out to an early three-goal lead and never looked back, winning 11-3. Senior co-captain Stefan Isaksen led all scorers with three goals while three other Gauchos contributed two goals apiece. Three UCSB goalies combined to stop 13 of the 16 shots they faced, led by senior Ryan Brittain’s eight saves.
Santa Barbara came out even stronger in the first quarter of Wednesday’s quarterfinal match, outscoring Virginia Tech 4-0. The Gaucho defense once again held its opponent to three goals, as UCSB finished with a 12-3 victory. Junior Nick Stratton led the team with three goals while senior Luke Wilson and freshman Luke Shaw contributed two goals each.
Santa Barbara has shown off its depth in both rounds so far, with six players scoring against Minnesota and eight players finding the back of the net against Virginia Tech.
“We’ve been getting ahead early so the starters are able to come out of the game and get some rest, which will definitely help us later in the tournament,” Patton said. “Its great to be able to get the younger guys out there and have them contribute.”
Despite the Gauchos’ dominance, the story of the tournament thus far has been ninth-seeded Florida State (FSU). The Seminoles defeated #8 UCSD in the first round before shocking top-seeded Brigham Young University in the second round by jumping out to a big second-half lead and holding on for an 11-10 victory.
The upset knocked the top team in the country out of the tournament, leaving UCSB as the prohibitive favorites.
“We’re not even thinking about anyone besides Michigan. We’ve got one more game to go and then we can think about other teams,” Patton said. “The FSU win [on March 11] showed that any team can win any game, so we have to be focused on the semifinals.”
Friday’s semifinal game between UCSB and Michigan will be held at 4:30 p.m. at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn.