Last week the UCSB women’s lacrosse club traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona for the Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates National Championship Tournament. Going into the tournament, the Gauchos had a sparkling 18-2 record and were riding a 14-game winning streak. Their first game came on Wednesday against the #16 seed West Chester University. The Gauchos also had another opponent: the 96-degree Arizona heat.
UCSB played a slower, more deliberate style of lacrosse in order to combat the heat, and it worked well against West Chester. The Gauchos led 5-1 at the half and were up 11-1 with 15 minutes left before Head Coach Paul Ramsey made the decision to pull the starters.
With seven minutes left, the Gauchos were up 12-3 when West Chester scored four unanswered goals in an attempt to bring the game within reach. Their attempt fell short, however, and the Gauchos beat West Chester 12-7. That night, the WDIA released the names of the All-American selections. Santa Barbara had six players named as All-Americans: junior midfielder Maggie Aker, sophomore attacker Ashley Antoon-Algieri, senior midfielder Katie Moran and junior defenseman Monora Seth were named to the first team, while senior defenseman Selina Eadie and junior attacker Samantha Lutz were named to the second team. Finally, Moran, who was named Preseason Player of the Year, was named this year’s WDIA Player of the Year.
“It’s a testament to the talent and balance in this program,” Ramsey said. “If we only had one scorer then only one player would make All-American on attack. We also have some standouts at the defensive end so that got them recognition too.”
“Getting first team All-American is of course a great honor, and we were very happy to have so many Gauchos recognized this year,” Aker said.
The next day it was back to work for UCSB, as they had to face off with the seventh ranked and eighth seeded University of Michigan. At the half, the Gauchos were down 5-6. When the second half opened, they went on a four-goal run to go up 9-6. This offensive burst was made possible by the efforts of freshman goalie Jeni Centner, who had five saves during the second half and nine during the game, which UCSB won 9-8.
“We had problems early solving [Michigan’s] goalie,” Ramsey said. ”We outshot them 24-18 though, and eventually they started going in.”
With that win, Santa Barbara’s overall record improved to 21-2, and they had run their win streak up to 16 games. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and so they did when UCSB met with fifth ranked Colorado University Friday night. Colorado came out faster than UCSB expected, and the Gauchos were down 4-0 just six minutes into the game. Colorado didn’t let up as the half wore on and were up 8-2 after 16 minutes.
However, the Gauchos hadn’t given up yet, and managed to take the lead 9-8 with 2:38 remaining after outscoring Colorado 8-2 during their run. Colorado managed to score one more, and the score at the end of the first half was 9-9. UCSB scored first in the second half to go up 10-9 and, after two more goals from each team, it was 12-11 Santa Barbara with 18:43 left. The Buffaloes began to win more draws and, over the next 12 minutes, went on a 7-1 scoring run to take the lead, 18-13, with just over six minutes left. Colorado won the next draw but were stopped by the Gaucho defense. This stop sparked a run of three unanswered Gaucho goals to bring the score to 18-16 with 3:26 left in the game. However, this is where the Gaucho comeback would end. Colorado won the next draw and was able to hold long enough to take most of the remaining time off the clock, sealing the Gauchos’ fate.
“Colorado players went to the goal hard right from the start, and we got caught not ready to slide and help on the ball too many times in a row,” Ramsey said. ”It should not have surprised us, but it did.”
“CU played an outstanding game and in the end, they took the win, but we came back twice from being five goals behind,” Aker said. “I think that says a lot about the heart of this team.”
Despite the disappointment, the season was not quite over for the Gauchos: They still had to face the 11th ranked University of Florida in the third place game. Florida and Santa Barbara took the game into overtime, and 3:18 into overtime Antoon-Algieri scored the winning goal to give the Gauchos a 9-8 win, third place in the 2009 National Championship and a 22-3 overall record for the season.
“It’s all so easy to tank it in the third place game and not go for it that we made a point right after the semifinal loss to say that third is better than fourth,” Ramsey said. ”It’s not like playing for first, but we wanted to take pride in finishing the season with a win.”
Overall, the Gauchos are proud of their season. According to Ramsey, they exceeded their preseason expectations, though he admits they fell short of their midseason expectations. Though they have fallen in the semifinals two years in a row now, the Gauchos are optimistic for the future and believe that a title is coming to Santa Barbara.
“A National Championship would have been amazing, I’m not going to lie,” Eadie said. “But all of the top 10 teams were extremely competitive this year and the title was truly out for the grabbing.
“This year we weren’t so lucky, but it will happen.”