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February 14, 2010

SB Shootout Proves Supremacy of the West

by David Ely | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Santa Clara captain and WDIA Preseason Player of the Year Krista Shaw has led the Broncos to a 6-0 start after the Santa Barbara Shootout.

© Dirk Dewachter

Santa Barbara Blog | WDIA Scoreboard

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- If there's one thing that can be taken away from this weekend's Santa Barbara Shootout -- a gathering of 48 teams, including nine of Lacrosse Magazine's top 10 preseason-ranked US Lacrosse WDIA teams -- it's that the best lacrosse the WDIA has to offer lies west of the Mississippi.

Yes, that statement might ruffle some Hokie feathers over at No. 1-ranked Virginia Tech.

But one team isn't enough to counter-balance the wealth of talented squads in California.

First, there are No. 2 UC Santa Barbara and No. 4 Santa Clara -- two squads who scored some of the most impressive wins of the weekend in their wins Sunday over No. 3 Colorado and No. 8 Colorado State, respectively.

If that's not enough, there's also up-and-coming UC Davis. The Aggies went undefeated this weekend, too, and drew glowing praise from opposing coaches.

Talk about manifest destiny.

"The West, I'll tell ya," Santa Clara coach Brendan O'Brien said after his club's 12-6 win over Colorado State. "(UC) Davis is the same as us. Davis, UCLA, Cal Poly, Santa Barbara and Santa Clara: five teams that can beat each other any day."

If that statement holds true, it's a bad omen for teams from the other 49 states come tournament time.

The weekend's marquee game -- No. 2 UCSB vs. No. 3 Colorado, a rematch from last year's national semifinals -- was a prime example of Californian superiority.

Last season, the Buffaloes bullied the Gauchos right from the get-go. They jumped out to a 6-1 lead before UCSB had a chance to regroup.

The Gauchos eventually rallied to tie the score at halftime and even took a lead in the second half, but Colorado prevailed.

This year -- even though the Buffaloes appeared to be the more physically imposing squad -- UC Santa Barbara (6-0) didn't let itself get punked in the early moments.

The game was tight throughout the first three-fourths of the game, and the Gauchos were the team that had strength to pull away at the end. UCSB won 8-6, with Maggie Aker scoring the game's final two goals.

"I think what happened with that game last year in the national semifinals, they jumped all over us, and we got down 6-1," UC Santa Barbara coach Paul Ramsey said. "We were down by six, five and five -- three different times -- and still made it 18-16.

"But this game we didn't let them do that. That's a huge difference."

In the day's other California-Colorado interstate battle, Santa Clara toppled Colorado State for its statement win of the weekend.

The Broncos led just 4-3 at halftime, but they scored the first five goals in the second half and cruised to the win.

"We're starting to come into our own finally," O'Brien said. "We hadn't really been tested. Georgia was a good test for us. Colorado State was an even better test. So it's nice to see them playing well and closing out games."

O'Brien said Santa Clara (6-0) has had a rough time starting games so far this season, a problem that has affected the team's defense.

"A lot of times when they feel like they're uncomfortable, they start playing defense with their sticks instead of their feet," O'Brien said.

But with the right adjustments (like playing CSU in a man-to-man defense) they've been able to excel as a second half team.

Whatever's working for Santa Clara and UC Santa Barbara, both squads would be best served to keep doing it.

It only takes a minor slip to lose a game in the West this season -- especially with UC Davis lurking around the corner, and UCLA and Cal Poly easily capable of pulling off an upset.

"They're all really, really good teams," O'Brien said.


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