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March 5, 2010

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Maggie Aker (UCSB # 9) looks to ditch Florida's Lara Miller (Florida # 10) during USCB's 7-6 victory over visiting Florida. © Dirk Dewachter
Maggie Aker (UCSB # 9) looks to ditch Florida's Lara Miller (Florida # 10) during USCB's 7-6 victory over visiting Florida. © Dirk Dewachter

WDIA: Broncos, Gauchos Vie for Bragging Rights

by David Ely | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | WDIA Poll

There are two different ways for a team to approach a No. 1 vs. No. 2 ranked showdown.

You can acknowledge the significance of the game and play into the hype, or you can say that you try to ignore the polls and that it’s just another tough game in a series of top-tier games on the schedule.

As No. 1 Santa Clara and No. 2 UC Santa Barbara ready for their top-ranked clash Saturday in Santa Barbara, Calif., the two respective coaches are on opposite ends of the spectrum in their approaches to the game.

UC Santa Barbara coach Paul Ramsey said his team has been hyping the game all week on campus in hopes of drawing a large crowd.

“Girls have been telling everybody on campus,” Ramsey said.

Santa Clara coach Brendan O’Brien has taken the more reserved approach.

“You try to take the polls away from it,” he said. “I think both Santa Barbara and Santa Clara could be No. 1 at this point and should be tied.”

But that doesn’t mean the Broncos aren’t looking forward to their trip down to face the Gauchos.

“Are they excited? Absolutely,” O’Brien said.

Once the game begins and the pre-game hype takes a backseat to the action on the field, the winner could be determined by which squad succeeds at neutralizing the other’s top offensive weapons.

For UC Santa Barbara, that means finding the right balance between taking Krista Shaw (33 goals) out of the Broncos attack and not leaving itself vulnerable to the rest of Santa Clara’s attackers.

“We need to figure out a way to effectively mark her,” Ramsey said. “(But) it would be stupid of us to only worry about (Shaw), because it looks like they’re much more balanced this year than they have been in the past.”

Santa Clara has five other players with at least 10 goals on the season.

Slowing down the Broncos will be a tall task for a UC Santa Barbara squad that gave up 18 goals last weekend against No. 4 UC Davis.

“We’ve been working on ball defense all week,” Ramsey said.

But when UC Santa Barbara is on the attack, Santa Clara will be faced with its own set of defensive obstacles.

O’Brien pointed out Gauchos Maggie Aker and Ashley Antoon-Algeri as two players that could potentially cause problems for his team’s defense.

“What do you do with Maggie Aker? What do you do with Ashley Antoon-Algeri?” O’Brien said.

“(Aker’s) traditionally given us a lot of trouble… Ashley is super quick. I think she’s going to give our defense a lot of trouble.”

Aker and Antoon-Algeri have combined for 41 goals in nine games, and UC Santa Barbara boasts four other players with at least 10 goals.

While opponents have struggled to slow down the Gauchos this spring, the Broncos have only allowed one team -- Cal Poly -- to reach double digits in a game this year.

“A big, big focus for us this year is defense,” O’Brien said. “I think that’s showing in the amount of goals we’re giving up.”
 
And though the winner of this game will gain the edge in terms of WWLL standings and national rankings, there’s a good chance these two teams will meet again in the postseason.

“I think this is one of many times we’re going to see them this season,” O’Brien said.

News & Notes

No player on the UC Santa Barbara roster has lost to Santa Clara during her collegiate career. The Gauchos went 2-0 against the Broncos in 2009, 1-0 in 2008 and 2-0 in 2007… With its upset of the Florida club team, Georgia is 4-0 in the SWLL in first place. The Gators are 3-1 in league play, 5-3 overall… Ever since Lindenwood lost to UC Santa Barbara 15-14 during the Santa Barbara Shootout on Feb. 12, the Lions have turned up the intensity on defense. During their five-game winning streak, the Lions haven’t allowed more than seven goals in one game.


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