UCLA women’s club lacrosse ready for first national title
The UCLA women’s club lacrosse team added a number of younger, experienced players this season – one of the reasons the team lost just two games this year.
(Jessica Zhou/Daily Bruin)
By Chris Kalra
May 7, 2014 1:13 a.m.
A simple question asked to the coach of the UCLA women’s club lacrosse team describes this year’s run fittingly: Before the season, did you expect this kind of turnaround?
“Absolutely not,” answers coach Paige Lin.
Prior to the fall, few members of the program expected this year’s Bruin team, a group that didn’t break .500 last season, to maneuver through its schedule with just two losses in 17 games and capture the league championship – the first since 2003.
A chance to win nationals, which UCLA will attend beginning Wednesday in Virginia Beach, Va., appeared even less remote back in January. Much has changed since then.
“I think this year our chances (of winning nationals) are as good as they’ve ever been,” Lin said of a team that has never won the national championship, twice finishing second.
The arrival of seven key freshmen in the fall injected a breath of life into the team. The youngsters were undeniably talented, most of them having five to 10 years of prior lacrosse experience.
Soon, the freshmen’s play caught the upperclassmen’s eyes, and ultimately, the prevailing expectations surrounding this year’s team began to shift.
“During the fall, as captains, we’re talking, and we’re like, ‘Wow, this team is going to be good this year. Like we already know,’” said Kate Armstrong, a fourth-year art student and one of the team captains.
“That was purely by seeing new talents and skills,” she said.
Before the season in January, after the club lacrosse team had split into the A and B squads, Lin pulled the players of the A squad together. Like the year before, she again asked a simple question: “What are your goals for the year?”
The answers of “win the league” or “go to nationals” were aplenty. But the team’s standout play in the fall made this season different.
“There was uncertainty in the beginning of this year … but them being able to realize their own potential (in the fall), that’s when it starts to shift,” Lin said. “That’s when they have expectations of each other.”
From there, more began to change.
“It’s a mentality shift,” Lin said. “Having the expectations … setting the goals high and changing the attitude at practice to be more competitive in practice with each other so we can be more competitive outside the league.”
Not even the season’s first loss – an unexpected, come-from-behind defeat to Cal Poly – could dampen those expectations. The wins came, and in bunches, ultimately to the tune of the No. 5 ranking nationally.
This week, if the Bruins are on their A-game, perhaps they can even bring home the program’s first national championship.
“We’re pretty confident. We’ve only struggled in two of the games that were losses and they were really close, and we feel like if we played those teams again, we could come out on top,” said Molly Tracy, the team’s president and a third-year economics student.
“When we’re playing our best lacrosse, I don’t think a lot of teams can beat us.”