Last Saturday marked the opening of the 2009 Western Women’s Lacrosse League Championship, which Santa Barbara entered ranked first overall. UCSB began the tournament with a 15-2 record, having not lost since Feb. 15. Coming into the tournament looking to capture a WWLL title, the team had to first get through #24 Arizona State.

In the first half, it seemed as though the Sun Devils would take an early lead with superior ball control, keeping it on the Gauchos’ side of the field more often than not.

“We weren’t expecting [ASU to slow the game down by holding the ball] because they didn’t do it the first time we played,” Head Coach Paul Ramsey said. ”This time they really hustled and won more of the 50/50 balls, and it set us back a little bit.”

However, the Gaucho defense shut down Arizona State for the majority of the half, and the offense capitalized on the opportunities they were given. UCSB scored three unanswered goals to end the first half and were up 7-3 when the halftime whistles sounded.

When the second half opened, the Gauchos went on a scoring tear and went up 10-4 after junior attacker Samantha Lutz scored what would prove to be UCSB’s last goal of the game. Once that goal was scored, however, things took a turn for the worse. ASU scored five unanswered goals to bring the score to 10-9 with just a few seconds remaining. All Santa Barbara needed to do to win was take the last draw and hold the ball as the final seconds dropped off. The Gauchos did exactly that and won 10-9 as a result.

“We were working really hard to get up on them, but once we were up 10-6 with a few minutes left, I really thought we were capable of working some reserves in and trying to get everyone some playing time while we could,” Ramsey said. 

Later that afternoon, the Gauchos squared off with UCLA in the semifinal game of the tournament. The fast-paced game saw the majority of goals come in transition after draws.

“Both of us are aggressive about trying to get some easy goals in transition because we both know that once each other’s defenses settle in, good shots will be hard to come by,” Ramsey said.

Around the middle of the first half, UCSB began to do a better job defending against the fast attack of the Bruins and, beginning with a goal at 16:56 by junior midfielder Maggie Aker, the Gauchos went on a 5-2 run to end the half up 7-6.

After trading goals back and forth to start the second half, the Gauchos found themselves up 11-10 with about 40 seconds remaining. About to celebrate a semifinal win, UCLA suddenly tied the score at the 38 second mark, forcing overtime. As time would tell, this late Bruin goal would only delay the inevitable.

Not even a minute into the extra period, sophomore attacker Ashley Antoon-Algieri put a pass from junior midfielder Brittany Barry into the UCLA goal for the only score of overtime to win the game.

“It was great to get the first goal even though we didn’t get the first draw control in overtime,” Ramsey said. ”We were just disciplined about taking care of the ball, and it made the difference.”

The final game came on Sunday in Harder Stadium against #3 Santa Clara University. UCSB scored three goals in the first 10 minutes of the game and made great plays on defense including an interception at 23:50 by senior defense player Selina Eadie. On the flip side, the Gauchos’ early offensive game stayed poised and took its time going up against a top goalie.

“We knew we had to have more possession time to win against a great team, so we took our time with the ball,” senior midfielder Katie Moran said. “We waited for good opportunities to score. We knew we had to take great shots because Santa Clara has the best goalie in the country.”

After the first 10 minutes, however, the deficit shrank, leaving UCSB up by just two at a score of 6-4 going into halftime.

The second half began just as the first ended, with both teams exchanging goals. Out of nowhere, Santa Clara tied the game at 13:25 before scoring about 30 seconds later to grab their first lead of the game. However, going down seemed to breathe new life into the Gauchos, and during the final 12 minutes of the game, Santa Barbara scored four goals to the Broncos’ one on the way to a 12-10 victory, giving the #1 team the number one prize: the WWLL Championship.

“It’s great to win [the championship] a second year in a row; it’s great to win it at home in front of a lot of people who don’t normally get to watch that level of lacrosse,” Ramsey said. ”The whole atmosphere this weekend was amazing.”