Co-captain Rachel Lee said the club’s success took awhile to register.
With their first national tournament bid in club history, it’s likely they have now captured not only their own attention, but many others as well.
“(The nationals) were on the radar,” said captain Rebecca Musser. “We just had to put in the work to get there. Last year was a building year and it came together this season.”
Because the club is divided into two teams, A and B, the accomplishments were twice as many. Team A and B compete in Division I and II, respectively, but are members of the Western Women’s Lacrosse League (WWLL).
While Team A earned much of the spotlight of the 10-2 WWLL record, it’s easy to overlook that this was the first time Team B played competitively together. The second team was provisional last year, but they came out hard this season to post a 6-3 record.
“I started as a sophomore and to see how far we have come, it has been great to be acknowledged as a team,” Musser said.
Team A earned a playoff spot and finished in third place in the WWLL. Their strong play gave them the bid for the Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates National Championship, hosted in Scottsdale, Ariz.
In their first national competition, the No. 4 seeded Aggies seemed poised as ever and handily defeated No. 13 Boston College in the opening round.
They went on to play Cal Poly in what was a hard-fought game, but fell in the first 30 seconds of overtime.
“Going into the game, we felt a little pressure,” Lee said. “They had made it (to nationals) every year. It came down to who wanted it more. We wanted it just as much, but I think experience helped them in the end.”
Despite the loss, the Aggies finished seventh in the nation by winning their last game against Brigham Young.
This has been a team that hasn’t needed that extra push from their captains all year. There’s no point since they are always pushing themselves.
“The team is self-motivated. When we have fun, we play our best,” Musser said. “It’s the drive within us. It’s not just the effort of the leaders.”
Nicole Crayton said they have a special way to stir up players before competition.
“We each have our own way of motivating,” Crayton said. “Each game, we have pump-ups. Sometimes it’s a song or a cheer. We use them to get us going and ready for the game.”
Being just one-year removed as a player, head coach Erica Jue helps the team realize that concentrating on the next game is all that matters.
“With Erica being on team last year, the coaches knew we were talented enough for nationals,” Musser said. “We do have players with talent, but I would say what’s unique about us is everyone’s capable of helping the team.”
Lee says, however, there are still skills worth honing for next season if they want repeated success.
“Our attack needs a little work,” Lee said. “We need to learn to read each other better and play more cohesively.”
Although the Aggies have to deal with loss of some key teammates, the camaraderie around the team keeps their spirits constantly high.
“We are only losing four seniors,” Musser said. “We’re one of the smallest teams in the league. Our team is such a family and keeping it small is key.”
Crayton was in awe of the national attention the team received all season and with a little more improvement sees no reason it should change in the future.
“The recognition on the national level even increased after the (Cal Poly) loss,” Crayton said. “It could have easily been us (in the championship).”
The Aggies have refused to settle on just making it back to the national championships. With a few minor tweaks, the teams may finally have the national experience that hindered them against more seasoned competitors on the big stage.
MARCOS RODRIGUEZ can be reached at email@example.com.