In a battle between the best in conference, the UCSB men’s lacrosse team took on Chapman University to determine the conference champion and was upended at home in a 10-8 shootout. The Gauchos (9-5) had only lost once since February 15, and were rolling off the outstanding play of their defense, but the offense of the Panthers (13-1) prevailed to scratch out the win.
[media-credit id=20108 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Less than a minute into the game, freshman midfielder C.J. Jacobs gave the Gauchos an early 1-0 lead, which UCSB’s formidable defense protected throughout the quarter by knocking down passes to take away opportunities from the Chapman offense. With ten minutes left in the quarter, junior attacker Jamie Bridgman ripped a goal of his own to give the Gauchos a 2-0 lead. UCSB could not keep Chapman quiet for much longer, however, and with six minutes left the Panthers got on the board with their first goal, and the quarter ended with Santa Barbara up 2-1.
“We felt confident in our game plan and preparation,” Head Coach Mario Waibel said. “We executed it well in the early going and controlled the game momentum.”
In the second quarter, things began to fall apart for UCSB. Chapman opened with the tying goal less than two minutes in, and while the Gauchos retook the lead off a goal from senior midfielder Ryan Sanders not long after, it looked like the Gauchos were scrambling to make forced plays, which lead to several key turnovers and a 4-3 Chapman lead with 7:48 left in the half.
Santa Barbara was able to tie the score at four just before the half and took the lead 45 seconds into the second period, but Chapman went on a three goal run to take a 7-4 lead and shut the Gauchos out for the remainder of the quarter.
“In the second and third quarters our offense started to expose some weaknesses in Chapman’s defense, and instead of taking what they were giving us we tried to force certain situations, which led to a lot of turnovers in the middle of game,” Sanders said.
Though down, the Gauchos were certainly not out. Chapman opened the quarter with their eighth goal, but less than four minutes later Bridgman scored his second goal of the game to bring the deficit back down to two. Unfortunately, the Gauchos were unable to get back on the scoreboard until there were only three minutes left, during which time the Panthers had scored twice to take a 10-6 lead.
Bridgman scored his third goal at the three minute mark, and junior midfielder Ethan Mantel added his first goal with 55 seconds left, but the four-goal deficit was too much to overcome with so little time left. Unfortunately for Santa Barbara, Chapman had done enough to secure the game and division title.
“We just talked about getting back to the plan and being disciplined enough to stick with what was working,” Waibel said. “The players responded well but we just ran out of time in the end.”
Though the regular season is now over, there is still lacrosse left to play. The Gauchos have spent the week preparing for the SLC tournament, which begins today.
“We have had a good week of practice so far and are ready to make a run in our conference playoffs and hopefully the national tournament in Denver,” Sanders said.
UCSB is the #2 seed in the tournament and will play the University of Arizona in the first round at Chapman. The game is set to begin at 5:00 p.m.