April 11, 2013

Colorado State Sets Sights on Perfect Season

by J. Jude Hazard | LaxMagazine.com

"We're coming back this year not just to win, but to dominate," Rams senior attacker Maddie Garcia said.

© Cecil Copeland

It's been almost a year since UC Davis Club shocked top-ranked Colorado State in the 2012 US Lacrosse Women's Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) Division I championship game. For Rams senior attacker Maddie Garcia, that 9-7 upset in the title game may as well have been yesterday.

"We're coming back this year not just to win, but to dominate," Garcia said. "Knowing how it felt to lose, we absolutely will not let that happen again."

The 15-0 Rams look to cap a perfect WCLA Division I regular season on Thursday night when they host cross-state rival No. 15 Colorado. A unanimous No. 1 selection throughout the season in the WCLA coaches' poll, Colorado State has put up staggering numbers this year.

The Rams average more than 16 goals per game and have held opponents to an average of six goals per game. Top-ranked WCLA Division II powerhouse Utah is the only team to get double-digit goals against the Rams this season in a 19-10 loss on April 6. Six of Colorado State's wins are by 12 goals or more. Surging UC Santa Barbara is the only team to limit the Rams to fewer than 10 goals this season.

Colorado State coach Lindsey Hudek said she pushes her team to play hard the entire game regardless of the score. Because of that, even lopsided wins can be exhausting for the players.

"We work hard the whole time no matter what, and that really starts with the second we step off the bus and start warming up to the second we shake their hands," Hudek said. "The girls have definitely learned you have to work hard all 60 minutes or you're going to lose."

Lacrosse Magazine Division I Preseason Player of the Year Hayley Bernstein said the loss to UC Davis still stings. Bernstein, a senior midfielder, has one more chance to cap a nearly-perfect college career in Fort Collins. The Rams won national titles in Bernstein's freshman and sophomore seasons.

"It's ours to lose right now," Bernstein said. "If we get beat, it's not going to be because of another team. It's going to be because we beat ourselves."

Colorado (6-8, 0-3 RMWLL) has played the toughest schedule in WCLA Division I this year, according to LaxPower.com. The Buffaloes have lost close games to Brigham Young, Georgia, Florida Club and Westminster. Quality wins include Texas, Michigan and Virginia Club.

"We've won some big games and we've lost some big games but we're definitely getting better," Colorado coach Jessica Tomlinson said. "It says a lot about our team that, against those top teams, we have quality losses."

Colorado has had some success against Colorado State in the last four years. Many of the players on the two teams know each other and have played together on other teams. Tomlinson said the Buffaloes will look to hold offensive possession as long as possible and capitalize on 1-on-1 matchups to try to slow down the Rams.

"In terms of talent, they have the strongest team that I've seen in a long time," she said. "They're having an amazing year."

Win or lose, the Buffaloes could find themselves facing Colorado State again in the Rocky Mountain Women's Lacrosse League conference tournament later this month. Tomlinson knows a win against the Rams would give her team plenty of confidence heading into the postseason.

"Being able to put a team away is something that we're working towards in our season," she said. "We really prepare the girls for big games like this."


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