The UCLA women’s club lacrosse team finds itself in the enviable position of going to nationals for the third year in a row.
UCLA (12-4) defeated UC Santa Barbara (11-6) and Cal Poly (10-4) en route to capturing this year’s Western Women’s Lacrosse League title Sunday. Thus, with their first-place finish, the Bruins will head to North Carolina to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-5) in the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association national playoffs.
While UCLA has enjoyed great success during the past couple of years, they have been unable to bring home the crown. For the past two seasons, the Bruins have placed first or second in their league and then went on to place third in nationals.
“Last season, we kind of came off and we were mad at how we did,” said coach Paige Lin. “It’s not very often that you place third in the nation and you’re still mad about it. And for better or worse, that has driven the older girls on this team and they’ve driven that into our freshmen.”
It is actually quite incredible that a team from the West Coast could enjoy such continued success on a national stage, since lacrosse is traditionally an East Coast sport. That being said, UCLA draws students from all over the globe, so the women’s lacrosse team is quite diverse. There are players from all over the country, bringing in a multitude of playing styles and knowledge of the game. This mixture allows UCLA to not only keep up but also defeat teams from the East Coast.
Despite the success that the younger players have experienced thus far, the seniors on the team know what it’s like to have a mediocre season. And that fire has pushed them forward all these years.
“My freshman year was pretty rough – we hardly qualified for (league) playoffs,” said senior defender Kira Adsit. “To see us making nationals every single year has been amazing. So I’m really proud of how far we’ve come since I was a freshman.”
Lin credits the team’s success to the older, core group of players such as Adsit and senior midfielder Sam Fletcher – both of whom are senior team captains. But the seniors aren’t the only ones contributing in a major way. The Bruins’ top four goal scorers are all from different years.
Sophomore attacker Katie Koller, junior midfielder Gretchen Kiep, freshman attacker Karina Yamasaki and Fletcher round out the major bread-winners of the team. In fact, Koller and Kiep have the second- and third-most goals in the WWLL with 47 and 43, respectively.
“This season we’ve got a great group of girls,” Fletcher said. “The freshman have all had a huge impact. We have a returning goalie, and we just have a strong lineup. I’m confident in everyone that steps on the field, and that’s a really great thing to have.”
What makes the success of UCLA women’s lacrosse even more compelling is the fact that it’s a club team with no scholarships or other such incentives – only a love for the game.
“I actually like that it’s a club sport,” Adsit said. “Everyone that is here really, truly wants to be here. They’re not on the field because of scholarship – everyone’s here for the love of the game and the love of the team, and it’s really the people that make it all worth it.”
Email Sugimura at [email protected] or tweet @GrantSugimura.