Despite reaching the semifinals of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association National Championship for the seventh year in a row, the #5 UCSB men’s club lacrosse team was unable to get a shot at repeating their 2006 championship with a 12-8 loss to #1 BYU.
The loss ends a streak of national championship finals appearances for the Gauchos that began in 2003.
“For the last seven years there has been turnover with the guys,” UCSB Head Coach Mike Allan said. “And the program has stayed competitive with the top four teams in the nation.”
The Gauchos struck first in the match, grabbing a 2-0 lead early despite neither team having a solid offensive rhythm. The Cougars were unable to set up any meaningful offense and couldn’t connect on more than a couple passes in a row. The Cougars’ troubles, mostly due to the Santa Barbara defense, left them scoreless throughout the first quarter.
UCSB started the game running a tight zone on the defensive end, something that they normally reserve for later in games as a rhythm-breaker. With the Gaucho defensive set packed in tight around the crease, the Cougar attackers were forced to connect on multiple passes in order to open up the backside of the UCSB pack.
“We usually use our zone defense as a change of pace, but tonight we wanted to start off in it and make them adjust to it early,” Allan said. “It was working to a certain extent, but we wound up wearing ourselves down as we played a lot of defense. That is bound to happen when you pack it in.”
In the second quarter, BYU began to unravel the mysteries of the UCSB defense, helped by the short Gaucho bench that left a small rotation of defenders in the demanding zone and knocked down four goals. In contrast, the BYU defense had been less worked in the first quarter despite the two goals. The Gaucho attack slowed play down, but couldn’t get a ball in the back of the net. The Cougars found success in getting rebounds that the tightly packed defense couldn’t grab, then countering behind the line. BYU answered Santa Barbara’s shutout first quarter with one of their own in the second, and took a 4-2 lead to the half.
BYU continued their unanswered scoring stretch with three goals early in the third quarter, until UCSB answered back with six minutes left on a goal by senior attack Nick Stratton to put the Cougars up 7-2. The Cougar defense held the Gauchos scoreless for a stretch of just over 26 minutes. Santa Barbara came back with another pair of goals, but a Cougar goal with four seconds left in the quarter gave BYU an 8-5 lead into the fourth.
Both teams traded off goals throughout the fourth quarter and a battered Gaucho lineup could not close the gap. Without a full and healthy Santa Barbara roster, the Cougars just managed to outlast UCSB.
“We wore down. We haven’t run a lot of guys the past couple of weeks,” Allan said. “Our whole starting defense is playing hurt. We were hoping to ride those guys as long as we could, but we just ran out of gas.”