An early lead, strong play from UCSD senior All-American attack Nick Dean and some Gaucho turnovers handed UC San Diego a 10-7 upset win over the UCSB men’s lacrosse team in the Western Collegiate Lacrosse League (WCLL) quarterfinals Saturday at The Pit.
“[The turnovers] played a major role,” senior midfield and co-captain Nick Schooler said. “Basically, we couldn’t get it in our offensive end. Whenever we had it on offense we were able to do a lot, but when you turn it over that many times you can’t get the offense going.”
The two-time defending national champion Gauchos (9-6 overall) were eliminated from the playoffs after winning the WCLL Championship for three consecutive years. The Tritons (11-4) advance to the semifinals of the WCLL playoffs to face Sonoma State on Saturday at noon at Harder Stadium.
UC San Diego took an early 2-0 lead, which would set the tone for the remainder of the game. Although the Gauchos tied the game at three just three minutes into the second quarter, the Tritons responded with six unanswered goals that spanned nearly 14 minutes and ended with a goal from UCSD senior midfield Tim Carter to put Santa Barbara in a 9-3 hole with 8:06 remaining in the third period.
“The problem with the turnovers was that they not only took away from our offensive possession time but put the ball in the hands of their forwards, which is not what you want to do,” senior defender and co-captain Damon Conklin-Moragne said.
However, the Gauchos put together a comeback reminiscent of the run managed by UC San Diego in its 8-7 overtime win over UCSB on March 11. Junior midfield Dustin Benesch sparked the 4-0 scoring run with 6:11 left in the third, and sophomore attack Luke Shaw found the back of the net just 17 seconds later, closing the gap to 9-5.
A Triton goal, scored just 29 seconds into the fourth, looked to seal the deal but was called off by the officials on a crease violation by senior defender Morgan Silldorff. Down by four, junior attack and co-captain Nick Stratton got through the UC San Diego defense for his second one-on-one of the fourth quarter and converted to cut the lead to three with 9:04 remaining.
Three minutes and several UCSB shots later, UC San Diego was on the ropes leading 9-7 with six minutes remaining. From there, though, the Gauchos seemed to run out of steam, committing several turnovers and giving up a demoralizing 10th Triton goal to Silldorff, which sealed the 10-7 win with 1:09 remaining.
Dean dominated for UC San Diego, having a hand in eight of the 10 goals, with four scored and four assists.
“[Dean’s] just so versatile, it’s hard to stop him,” Schooler said. “If you keep him from shooting, he’ll feed; if you keep him from feeding, he’ll shoot. He’s hard to take the ball away from, just a solid player.”
The Triton goaltending tandem of sophomore David Piccinati and senior Matt Etchepare combined to make 17 saves on 30 UCSB shots. Piccinati and Etchepare can credit an assist to quality defense that held Santa Barbara under two goals each quarter.
Stratton led the Gauchos with two goals and one assist, while junior goalie Mike Sheridan stopped 11 of the Tritons 36 shots.
Despite the loss, UCSB can look forward to a bid into the Men’s Division Intercollegiate Associates (MDIA) championships that begin May 9 in Dallas, Texas.
“We’re going to be practicing hard and playing scrimmages and getting ready for Dallas [over the next two weeks],” Conklin-Moragne said. “Hopefully we’ll get a high seed, high enough to play good teams. Ideally we’d like to play the teams we’ve lost to already and get some revenge.”
The Gauchos are looking to earn a top 10 seed in the MDIA Division A Championships, which they have won for two straight years.
“The primary goal of the whole season is to win the national championship for the third straight time,” Conklin-Moragne said. “We want to go out on top, so we’re looking forward to Dallas.”