In its final game before entering postseason play, the women’s lacrosse team welcomed unranked Pepperdine University after getting stomped by fourth-ranked Cal Poly. With that memory to motivate them, the Gauchos pulled out all the stops and steamrolled Pepperdine on their way to a 16-3 victory. The men’s team was also in action, hosting division rival Loyola Marymount. In what can only be described as a defensive masterpiece, UCSB held back LMU’s attack for an 8-3 win.
For the women, playing Pepperdine was almost like playing an exhibition game to prepare for the playoffs. The Waves were UCSB’s first unranked opponent since playing Claremont on Feb. 7. Since then, they have only faced teams ranked in the top 20 in the WDIA. Their last game was a disaster in the form of a 21-9 beat down by Cal Poly. With the playoffs right around the corner, the Gauchos needed to show that they were back on form.
“We didn’t [put the Cal Poly game out of our minds],” Head Coach Paul Ramsey said. “We wanted everyone to learn from it so we talked about that.”
As the Gauchos took the field, it was clear that they were back in form. They came out of the tunnel smiling and in high spirits, as if they knew the game was in the bag. For the final game of the regular season, Santa Barbara employed a new strategy that helped them capture and maintain control of the game. The strategy centered on slowing down the game, making deliberate passes and settling before shots. By halftime it was clear that this strategy was effective, as the Gauchos took a 10-1 lead into the break.
“We need to be able to possess the ball against faster teams,” Ramsey said. “We’re going to be smarter about it so we can get an advantage that way. We took some time off the clock almost every possession. It made us think about what to do a little bit so aside from not shooting as much, it took some time for offense to develop, which is fine.”
In the first half, coach Ramsey had rotated all of his players into the game to get them some minutes before the playoffs. In the second half, with the game in the bag, he played many players out of position and put some defenders on offense.
This didn’t slow down the Gaucho attack, and they went on to win 16-3 and improve to 11-2 and 3-1 in the WWLL Central for a share of the division title with UCLA and Cal Poly. Overall, they were awarded the third seed in the WWLL tournament, behind #2 Cal Poly and #1 Santa Clara, and their first post-season game will be on April 17 against #18 Arizona State. According to coach Ramsey, the Pepperdine game was just what they needed to get ready.
“It was a good game to play just before going into the WWLL Championship Tournament,” Ramsey said.
The men’s team enjoyed similar success against LMU, but their game was won by stellar defense. In a game that had playoff implications for both teams and that saw an excessive amount of fouls from both teams, including an LMU player punching senior captain and midfielder Ryan Sanders near the end of the first half, UCSB’s defense held together for their best performance of the season.
“It is an aggressive game and unfortunately things like that happen,” Head Coach Mario Waibel said. “I was happy that our team maintained their composure and did not retaliate.”
Senior goalie Zack Carson made 16 saves for an 84.2 save percentage, and after LMU scored their second goal of the first quarter with 4:47 remaining, UCSB held them scoreless for the next 46 minutes and 56 seconds for an 8-3 win.
“Defensively, the guys really came together and played great,” Waibel said.
“They slid well, recovered well, won the ground ball game and pushed transition on turnovers.”
This was the 26th year in a row that the Gauchos have beaten LMU. UCSB was able to move past that tension and play their most consistent game of the season, proving that they have matured and are ready for the postseason.
“The offense played really well but I still don’t think that we have reached our peak,” Waibel said. “It was a very strong performance and I am very proud of the team and how they played.”
The Gauchos are now 8-3 and 3-0 in their division. Their next game will be at USC this Thursday.