Club Women

April 3, 2009

WDIA Notebook: Ram Revival

by Brian Logue | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

After starting the season 3-5, defending national champion Colorado State has won seven straight games to move to No. 5 in the WDIA rankings.
© Dirk Dewachter

After a storybook 2008 season that ended with a national championship in its home state in an NFL stadium, things got off to a rocky start for the Colorado State women's lacrosse team in 2009. The Rams, who lost just one game in 2008, opened the season with a 3-5 record. And don't think for a second that those teams that beat CSU weren't pumped to have knocked off the defending national champions.

"We have to get up for every single game and that was hard when we lost those games in a row," said senior midfielder Lisa Long. "It was hard to hear people on the phone calling up their friends and saying, 'We just beat the national champions.'"

The early season struggles weren't surprising. CSU lost its entire starting attack from the championship team, not to mention All-American goalie Brooke Lewis, a dominating presence that played a key role in the Rams rising to the top of the US Lacrosse Women's Division Intercollegiate Associates.

CSU didn't exactly ease into a new season either. They opened the year in mid-February at the Santa Barbara Shootout – where they played five ranked teams, including traditional WDIA heavyweight Cal Poly and last year's No. 1 team for most of the season – UC-Santa Barbara. Two weeks later they were in Georgia to play four more ranked teams in the A-Town Throwdown, falling by a single goal to both Florida and Georgia.

"We actually did that on purpose," said Long, referring to the difficult schedule. "We decided we didn't want to play anyone that wasn't going to push us."

The grueling stretch to start the season in now paying dividends. The Rams have won seven straight games to improve to 10-5 and the big wins are coming. On March 7 they knocked off rival Colorado, then the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

"That was a big turning point for us," said Long. "We realized we could beat the ranked teams."

CSU proved that again last weekend when they went a perfect 4-0 at the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Highlighting the weekend were victories over a pair of Top 10 teams in Michigan and BYU. The victories moved CSU up to No. 5 in this week's WDIA national rankings.

With the US Lacrosse WDIA national championship just over a month away, the focus is starting to shift towards defending their title. After two straight years of playing at home in Colorado, the venue shifts to Scottsdale, Ariz., but the Rams are excited about the new opportunity.

"Travelling is probably the most fun thing you do as a club," said Long. "We're excited to actually go somewhere for nationals."

Hokies Hit National Picture

Despite being located in the heart of lacrosse country, the teams in the Mid Atlantic Women's Lacrosse League often get lost in the WDIA national scene. Many of the programs aren't as organized as others in the WDIA, most teams are coached by players and the schedules have primarily been confined to regional opponents.

When Virginia Tech's club team earned a bid to last year's WDIA national championship, it was given a No. 10 seed.

"No one knew how to judge our team," said senior Alexandra Kazlausky.

A first-round loss to Pitt sent the Hokies to the loser's bracket where they knocked off Minnesota and Army to finish ninth. But the trip left the Hokies unfulfilled. They didn't get a chance to play a California team and they felt like they could have done more.

"One thing we realized last year at nationals was that we had to get better competition," said senior Mindy Sartori.

So the Hokies set about to make some scheduling changes. They beefed up the schedule by heading to Atlanta for the A-Town Throwdown and Pittsburgh for the Pitt Invitational. The moves required a bigger commitment from the players.

"We knew we were going to have to play some more challenging teams to get our team ranked," said Kazlausky.

"We knew that we'd have extra games, but we all decided it was worth it," said Sartori, who is president of the club and a coach with Kazlausky.

The payoff came this past weekend when the Hokies went 4-0 at the Pitt Invitational, beating then No. 5 Santa Clara, along with ranked teams from Miami (Ohio) and Pitt. The victories improved Tech to 10-2-1 for the season and they skyrocketed to No. 7 in this week's WDIA poll.

The Hokies are hoping their performance translates into more respect for the MAWLL.

"I definitely think our league is underrated because we don't get the chance to go out and play those teams," said Kazlausky."Virginia, JMU, Maryland, those games are tough, tougher than some of the Top 25 teams we've played. We play Maryland this weekend, and even with our confidence after last weekend, I'm still nervous."

Virginia Tech Club celebrating its tournament championship at JMU two weeks ago. The Hokies went 4-0 at the Pitt Invitational last weekend to vault to No. 7 in this week's WDIA rankings.

Quick Hits

  • Central Florida was the other big mover in the poll this week. The Golden Knights knocked off Georgia to move into the Top 10 at the No. 9 slot.
  • Top-ranked UC-Santa Barbara will be participating in the Western States Tournament this weekend. Other teams include No. 10 UC-Davis Club, No. 15 Michigan State, No. 22 Texas, No. 25 Oregon Club and Cal-Berkeley Club. Michigan State will also play at No. 6 Santa Clara on Friday before the tournament begins.

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