WCLA Kicks Off College Championship Season
by Brian Logue | LaxMagazine.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The 2011 college lacrosse championship season gets started Wednesday with the opening round of the US Lacrosse Women's Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) National Championships. Twenty-four teams (16 in Division I, eight in Division II) are headed to the Arizona heat -- and we mean heat -- to battle for a national title. Temperatures in the high 90s are expected throughout the four days of competition.
Colorado State won the Division I championship as a No. 11 seed last year, and this year's tournament figures to be just as wide open. Cal Poly ripped off seven straight titles from 2001 to 2007, but there have been no dominant teams the last three years. Colorado State ended Cal Poly's reign in 2008, beating the Mustangs in overtime at Denver's Invesco Field, home of the NFL's Broncos. In 2009, the first year of the tournament in Scottsdale, Virginia Tech's club team came from nowhere to win the title as a No. 6 seed.
Colorado enters this year's tournament as the No. 1 seed following a terrific 15-1 season, and is looking to cash in on its first national title after three straight semifinal trips, including a spot in the 2009 championship game. Five of the Buffaloes' wins came by two goals or fewer, including one-goal wins over No. 2 Florida Club and No. 3 UC Davis Club.
The Gators, who have played most the season without injured star Kate O'Linn -- a finalist for the Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year -- lost to Colorado by one in the Santa Barbara Shootout. They came back to avenge that loss during the A-Town Throwdown in Georgia in March, handing Colorado its only loss of the season.
UC Davis went into the Western Women's Lacrosse League (WWLL) playoffs as the No. 1 seed, but fell to rival Santa Clara in the champoinship game. Santa Clara, under first-year head coach Jen Lee, enters the tourney as the No. 4 seed, and with considerably less pressure than last year when it was the No. 1 seed. The Broncos also feature an outstanding goalie in senior Renee Eligio.
Another strong title contender figures to be Lindenwood, which is playing in its final WCLA championship. The Lions are beginning a transitional process to the NCAA Division II level following this year's championships. Lindenwood, coming off of a semifinal appearance last year, played a murderous schedule to get ready for the championship.
Defending champ Colorado State is the No. 6 seed. After getting off to a slow start, the Rams have won 10 of their last 11, with the one loss coming to rival Colorado on April 13. They're followed by another dangerous team, UCSB, at No. 7. The Gauchos averaged 13.7 goals per game and have one of the most dangerous offenses in the tournament.
The 8-9 first-round game features a rising Michigan team and a battle-tested UCLA squad. Michigan surprisingly missed the WCLA national tournament field last year and got off to a 2-4 start this year. In mid-March, the Wolverines beat nationally-ranked Miami (Ohio) and Pitt to swing the momentum. They enter the championship having won 10 of 12, including a 14-11 victory over UCLA on April 8. UCLA is just 9-7, but has some impressive wins, including one over Colorado State.
Texas has dominated the Texas Women's Lacrosse League in recent years and had its season highlighted by a win over UCLA. Pittsburgh also rode a big early-season win to reach the tourney and earn the No. 11 seed. The Panthers beat UCSB in the first game of the season and rely on a strong defense. Only three times in 17 games did they allow double-digit goals.
Cal Poly has played in the championship game in nine of the 10 years of the event, but faces its most difficult road ever. The Mustangs went just 7-7 and are the No. 12 seed, but showed how dangerous they are in playing UC Davis Club to a one-goal game in the WWLL playoffs.
Boston College comes into the tourney as the No. 13 seed and should not be underestimated. BC is making its second straight national appearance and posted a big win over Texas at the A-Town Throwdown.
Washington is one of two teams making their first WCLA national appearance following an 11-0 season that saw it earn the No. 14 seed. It is followed by perennial WCLA tournament participant Minnesota, which is looking to build off last year's momentum and features one of the league's most dynamic players in senior Lindsey Lewis. Lewis is featured in the May issue of Lacrosse Magazine.
Rounding out the Division I field is Midland, which is in its first year with a program. The Nebraska school won the Central Plains Women's Lacrosse League and is the league's first representative at nationals since 2008.
The Division II tournament begins on Thursday and is highlighted by No. 1 Westminster and No. 2 Chapman. Westminster's only losses this year came against Division I foes, while Chapman went unbeaten. No. 3 SMU is back for the second year in a row and has the experience of reaching the semifinals last year. Towson Club comes out of the Mid-Atlantic Women's Lacrosse League, a league that has fared well at nationals recently. Virginia Tech Club came from the MAWLL to win the national title in 2009 and Loyola Club was the Division II runner-up last year.
Wednesday, May 4 Division I Games (All times
5 p.m. - No. 3 UC Davis Club vs. No. 14 Washington
5 p.m. - No. 6 Colorado State vs. No. 11 Pittsburgh
5:30 p.m. - No. 2 Florida Club vs. No. 15 Minnesota
5:30 p.m. - No. 7 UCSB vs. No. 10 Texas
8 p.m. - No. 4 Santa Clara vs. No. 13 Boston College Club
8 p.m. - No. 5 Lindenwood vs. No. 12 Cal Poly
8:30 p.m. - No. 1 Colorado vs. No. 16 Midland
8:30 p.m. - No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 8 UCLA
Thursday, May 5 Division II Games (All times
8 a.m. - No. 1 Westminster vs. No. 8 Wisconsin-River Falls
8 a.m. - No. 4 Towson Club vs. No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth
11 a.m. - No. 3 SMU vs. No. 6 Utah
11 a.m. - No. 2 Chapman vs. No. 7 Oakland
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