UCSB Wins WWLL Championship
Apr. 20, 2008
Chico, CA - The Gauchos came back from being down 6-3 at half-time and on the short end of 8-4 early in the second half to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the WWLL Championship game against seven-time defending national champion Cal Poly SLO. It took two over-times to settle it and some heroics from UCSB reserves to overcome a slow start against the Mustangs. The winner came 33 seconds into the sudden victory overtime after six minutes of scoreless regulation overtime. The Gauchos won the draw and worked it behind goal. After a pass up top Kristyn Gherardi (San Mateo, CA) drove to goal before passing it to outlet Maggie Aker (Oakland, CA) on the wing. Aker re-directed it inside to an open Kristen Dickey (Davis, CA) and the senior captain sent it home to give UCSB the win. Dickey might even have been open for Gherardi to throw to directly but the extra pass moved Mustangs goal keeper Paige Spalding and gave Dickey the wide open lay up and point blank shot that made it look easy. That doesn't tell the whole story on this comeback, though, since all three of those players are normaly involved in such successful plays for UCSB. It it took some fine play by reserves for UCSB to make it happen today.
It looked grim for most of the game for the Gauchos and when Cal Poly SLO scored two unanswered goals in four minutes to take an 8-4 lead six minutes into the second half it looked worse than grim. Coupled with their three goal run to end the first half the Mustangs had scored 5 of the last 6 goals and it looked like they were about to run away with it. Not so according to Megan Puckett (Poway, CA) when she was fouled hard on the way to goal a minute later. After making sure everything was still attached the senior put in her free position shot for her first score of the game and it was 8-5. A lot of hustle and hard play by both teams kept the score there for five minutes before reserve midfielder Alyssa Nelsen (Denver, CO) was fouled on her way to goal. Nelsen buried her 8 meter shot to pull UCSB to within two at 8-6. A little under three minutes later freshman Ashley Antoon-Algieri (San Ramon, CA) found junior Katie Moran (San Rafael, CA) open on a slashing cut to goal for a nice pass and score that made it 8-7 in favor of Cal Poly SLO with 15 minutes remaining in regulation.
"I thought at that point that our comeback was inevitable because we were starting to pull it together," said first year head coach Paul Ramsey after the game. "Then Cal Poly really cranked it up another notch."
That notch gave the Mustangs three of the next four goals and a cushion at 11-8 with ten minutes to go. During that 5 minute span Puckett fed senior Emily Ruby (Davis, CA) for a score but the lone UCSB goal was surrounded by 3 Cal Poly SLO goals. The last of those three was scored by the Mustangs with 9:45 remaining in regulation but it was the last one they would score for the rest of the day. The three goal lead proved to not be enough to hold off UCSB.
Moran said after the game, "That looked like the same old Cal Poly to me...but we have a good team this year."
Moran's reference was to the Mustangs habit of playing their best lacrosse when it counts. It's what has made them the seven-time defending national champs. Some years they've done it with the best team from the start to finish of a season and other years they've had an average team during the regular season but then turn it on at the right time. A regular season win against Cal Poly SLO is nice but means nothing when it comes to league championships and national championships. The Mustangs again proved they are a post-season team with a 17-10 drubbing of then 3rd ranked Santa Clara in the semifinals that wasn't even that close until Cal Poly SLO pulled most of their starters with about ten minutes to go.
It was scoreless on both sides for 7 minutes but Puckett found herself in the right spot when the Mustangs were called for a 3 second violation on their defense. With 2:50 remaining on the clock Puckett scored to pull UCSB to within 2 goals at 11-9. Less than a minute later after a UCSB draw control Lutz fed to Aker in front of the goal but Spalding got her stick on it to break it up for the Mustangs. The deflected pass went straight to Puckett who buried it to pull UCSB to within one goal at 11-10. Then off the draw control and only ten seconds later Puckett found reserve attacker Samantha Lutz (San Diego, CA) open cutting backdoor but the entry pass was off the mark. Lutz made a twisting acrobatic right handed catch, switched to her left hand as she was regaining her balance and put in a low scorcher to make it 11-11 with 1:50 left to play in regulation. It set up the overtime opportunity and the quick passing sequence among Gherardi, Aker and Dickey that won the game and sent all the Gauchos running onto the field in jubilation.
Balance and depth again proved to make the difference for UCSB. While two Cal Poly SLO players scored 8 of their 11 goals and another two scored their remaining 3 goals the Gauchos had ten different players involved in the offense with either a goal or an assist. Puckett ended up leading all scorers in points with 3 goals and 2 assists. Right behind her for UCSB was Aker with 3 goals and 1 assist. Six more Gauchos scored a goal apiece and another two had assists. UCSB outshot the Mustangs 36 to 27. In the closing minutes of crunch time freshman goal keeper Diane Clow (Poway, CA) stepped up big. Over the course of the entire game Clow chased down 6 ground balls outside the crease, including one that looked from the sideline like it was going to be won by a speedy Mustang. Then she snared two saves in the first overtime period. Overall Clow had 9 saves but finished with 5 saves against the last 7 Cal Poly SLO shots on goal.
"We certainly had some players marked out of the game for a while," commented Ramsey." Although, we were able to take a lot of shots they weren't great looks so my hat is off to Cal Poly for what they were able to limit our offense."
"This result leads credence to the defense wins championships saying so many coaches are fond of repeating," continued Ramsey. "We had to hold them off in order to score enough goals to win the game as we were past the point where we could have traded goals even at a 2-1 or 3-1 ratio and still tie it up. We needed a 4-0 run to win it."
Ultimately UCSB wore down the Mustangs with too much firepower and some incredible hustle and heart all over the field. The Gauchos completed an improbable comeback after facing three different deficits of 3 goals, 4 goals and 3 goals. During the comeback the Gauchos outscored the Mustangs 9-5 over the last 36:33 of action and 3-0 over the last three minutes of regulation. The win improved top ranked UCSB to 18-0 overall while the 6th ranked Mustangs dropped to 10-6. Seedings and schedule for the WDIA National Championship Tournament in Denver, Colorado will be released Monday evening. UCSB is the odds on favorite for the #1 seed.
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