Battling injuries to a number of key starters, the UCSB women’s club lacrosse team has stepped up its play this season, going 6-1 over its first seven games to earn a #6 ranking going into an important stretch of the season.

Despite playing without seniors Candace West, Colleen Hackney and Stephanie Ligon, and junior Shanna Mota, the Gauchos have played well, losing only to longtime rival Cal Poly on March 4.

“We’ve had a lot of injuries. A lot of our starters and key players have been out,” junior Brooke Julicher said. “It’s been a lot of camaraderie and hard work that has kept us with a winning record so far.”

In going 6-1, the Gauchos have defeated rivals Arizona State, UCLA, UC San Diego and USC, as well as Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount. Despite the injuries, UCSB still fields a dangerous offense, led by 2005 standouts Julicher and seniors Emily Preiss and Katie Gong, three of the team’s most consistent scorers from last season. Senior goalie Donna Chardon, who made 38 saves in last year’s Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates (WDIA) tournament, has returned to anchor the defense.

Last year’s team went 19-2, winning the Western Women’s Lacrosse League championship and finishing third in the WDIA tournament after losing to Cal Poly in the semifinals. The team’s only regular season loss also came against the Mustangs.

“We get a rematch with Cal Poly in two weeks,” Julicher said. “It’ll be here this time, Thursday night at home under the lights. We’re really looking forward to it.”

The Gauchos will travel to Colorado Springs this weekend to take part in the two-day Western States Tournament against a number of the nation’s top teams. The tournament will be critical for establishing momentum before the playoffs begin in May. It will also be an opportunity for the Gauchos to gain the wins necessary to move up in the national rankings.

“Right now we’re ranked sixth, but we’re really focusing on this Colorado tournament,” Julicher said. “This is what is going to make or break us in the national rankings.”

After traveling to Colorado Springs, Santa Barbara returns home to host Central Coast rival Cal Poly on April 13 at 7 p.m.