Club Women

February 19, 2009

W. Club Canvas: Santa Barbara Rewind

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

The Santa Barbara Shootout may not have gone the way Colorado State wanted it - the defending champs went 2-3 - but the event exceeded expectations and should be a destination for any women's lacrosse fans in SoCal.
© Dirk Dewachter

As I play back the Santa Barbara Shootout in my mind, I keep coming back to one word.


I had never seen a WDIA contest before so, obviously, I had a vision of what the event was going to be like and how I would react to the level of play. Every aspect, with one exception, outstripped my expectations.

I was impressed with the tournament itself.

My blog of the event covered most of the top flight WDIA games, which were happening on the two turf fields next to the recreation center where I was writing, but there were six more fields about half a mile away that featured high school and club action. In total, there were 51 different teams playing over 100 games in a 65-hour period.

That doesn't happen without a lot of preparation before it starts and plenty of game management during the tourney. Paul Ramsey, the UCSB coach who organizes the event, deserves the bulk of the credit, especially for pairing up teams that were on the same plane, competitively. Of the 50 games on the two turf fields, 20 of them were decided by one or two goals. Ramsey does have the luxury of a conscientious event management staff comprised mostly of students employed by the recreation department.

I was impressed with the coaches.

Even though not all the coaches are employed in the same capacity - Ramsey is an experienced coach who is compensated relatively well, but Colorado coaches Kaitlin Moore and Jessican Tomlinson graduated from CU last year and split a relatively modest stipend - they are all very much into seeing the student-athletes achieve success.

It was also fun to watch the coaches get genuinely excited for their own games and others. One of the Colorado co-head coaches gave her fellow co-coach a bloody nose celebrating a big goal. With UC Santa Barbara about to lose to Georgia in one of the final games of the season, USC coach Gabe Valenzuela called Santa Clara coach Brendan O'Brien to inform him of the score. Georgia coach Adam Weinstein went so far as to protest a game's outcome. The coaches care, and it's contagious.

I was impressed with the level of play.

I watched the ball being moved quickly down the field while never touching the ground. I saw athletic goalies racing out of the cage to scoop up ground balls. I witnessed quick-stick goals and bombs from the 8-meter arc. Some of the games were sloppy, but most of the action featured a high skill level, which only added to the excitement.

There was solid play at all positions, but the goaltending was the most impressive - something I had not expected. I assumed the WDIA would be a reflection of a bygone era in NCAA women's lacrosse when the least athletic player was put in the cage with hope the ball would hit her. The goalies in Santa Barbara were athletic, skilled and many could hit a player on the run from 30 yards out.

I was impressed, for the most part, with the fan support.

There were a lot of fans, mostly parents who showed up for the games, and they were excited and mostly supportive. There were a few exceptions, mostly when parents embarrassed themselves by riding the officials and heckling opposing players. I hesitate to mention this because it was such a small part of a great tournament - most of the parents were fantastic - but it just takes a couple to leave a sour taste.

Lastly, I was impressed with the WDIA in general.

It has everything a prospective student-athlete would want other than varsity status. All of the other necessities for a great college lacrosse experience are present. It's no wonder that nearly 200 teams are involved in the organization.

It's Still Early
The temptation is to take the Santa Barbara Shootout, which we must remember is just a very early snapshot of the WDIA season, and make predictions about the how this season will shake out.

It's easy to crown Colorado already for what it accomplished at the Shootout, but it also played in five games - four one-goal contests and one decided by two goals - that could have ended differently with a few unlucky bounces.

For many teams, Santa Barbara was the first time they were on the field. Even some of the West Coast teams were still getting their legs under them - Cal Poly hadn't been outside for the previous two weeks, according to coach Mike Windall. After a narrow win, Ramsey said one has to remember that all of the teams at the tournament expect to be a lot better in two months, including UCSB.

It was exciting lacrosse, but there's still a long way to go.

One Man's Top 20
Since I spent Sunday talking to different coaches about how the results would impact the top 20, I figured I would hash out a ranking of my own. Keep in mind this takes into account the results at the Shootout, the previous poll and other results (like UCF beating Pittsburgh).

1. Colorado
2. Santa Clara
3. Cal Poly
4. Michigan
5. UC Santa Barbara
6. Colorado State
8. Georgia
9. Texas
10. Virginia Tech
11. Central Florida
12. Miami (Ohio)
13. Michigan State
14. BYU
15. Pittsburgh
16. Maryland
17. Florida
18. Lindenwood
19. UC Davis
20. Chico State

Slides & Rides
- I received an email from Bob Vlahakis, who guided Colorado State to the national championship last year. He was down in Texas welcoming his son back from a tour in Iraq. I asked him whether he'd be in the same capacity with the Rams this year, and he said he was going to concentrate on leading Shoreham-Wading River High School to its third consecutive New York state title. If the CSU position is open next year, Vlahakis said, he would consider returning.

Obviously, commuting from New York to Colorado on a regular basis can be taxing, and now that the Jet Blue schedule between NYC and Denver has been altered, it just wasn't in the cards this spring. As a result, Lindsey Brown, who was a defensive starter for the Rams last year, will be the head coach. Before signing off, Vlahakis gave a prediction about CSU: "They will be very good before the season is over!"

- Now that the Santa Barbara Shootout is in the books, the next big tournament in the WDIA will be the inaugural "A-Town Throwdown," hosted by the University of Georgia. Colorado, CSU, Lindenwood, Florida, Michigan State, Minnesota and Virginia Tech will all be in attendance. This should help flesh out the national picture a little more.

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