Exhausted but exhilarated, the newly reigning National Champion UC Davis’ Women’s Club lacrosse team walked past a sign that read, “I learned to win by learning to lose.”
“I feel like that quote really summed up our season,” said freshman goalkeeper Amy Corstorphine.
A few weeks ago, UC Davis did not even know if they would be seeded at the US Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) Division I National Championship Tournament. It had been a rough season featuring some tough losses, as the Aggies had suffered all eight of their defeats by a single goal.
“Every game we lost was by one point which is really frustrating,” said junior midfielder Molly Fensterwald. “When you lose by one point, it really kills you mentally.”
However, those losses would ultimately fuel a fire, the likes of which UC Davis lacrosse has never seen before.
UC Davis ultimately entered the National Championship Tournament seeded 10th and defeated Texas in the first round.
The Aggies then faced against the No. 2 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the quarterfinals, where UC Davis fought back from a five-point deficit to win by one in a thrilling overtime finish.
At that point, UC Davis had surpassed the expectations of everyone.
“We’ve never made that far so I think was a huge breakthrough,” said Corstorphine.
Senior attacker Lauren Colby shared those sentiments.
“When I joined the team as a freshman Nationals wasn’t even a word in our vocabulary because we had never even gotten close to earning a bid,” she said.
UC Davis was matched up against third-ranked Michigan for the semi-final match. The team came together to pull off another thrilling overtime win, earning a bid to the WLCA Div. I National Championship.
Defending champions and number one seed Colorado State was riding a 14-game win streak as they faced off against UC Davis.
“We prepared for that game,” Colby said. “We dissected their defense and we knew exactly what we had to do to win.
“We watched film and came up with strategies and we just went out there and played. Everything came together and it was the best way to end the season.”
The Aggies fought hard in the first half but Colorado State was still holding a 6-5 lead at the half.
“We were down at half but we never gave up and pulled together in the second half,” Fensterwald said. “It was the best we have ever played.”
Fensterwald lit up like a firecracker in the second half. She scored three consecutive goals to pull the Aggies to an 8-7 lead with just 13 minutes remaining in the half.
While Fensterwald exploded on the offensive side of the ball, Corstorphine refused to let anything enter her goal.
CSU had an average of 19.3 goals per game throughout the rest of the tournament but Corstorphine and the Aggie defense held them to seven on the day, and only one in the second half.
“The defense really came together in the second half. We were playing as a unit and the communication was really strong,” Corstorphine said.
Corstorphine was also quick to mention that the strong defensive performance in the second half was aided by the Aggie offense who simply refused to give CSU any chances to score.
With UC Davis up by two points, the attackers managed to maintain possession of the ball for 12 of the last 13 minutes of the game.
“Stalling is something we’ve practiced all season. There is no shot clock in lacrosse so you can keep the ball for as long as you want, as long as you don’t lose possession,” said Colby.
“I think we all were so sick and tired of losing by one point that we played our hearts out and refused to be second best,” said Colby.
As the last few seconds ticked off the clock, the Aggies realized that they were about to finish their season in a well-deserved movie script fashion.
“We definitely came in as the underdogs and to win — it was just great,” Fensterwald said. “We had all the California teams on our side rooting for us and it just gave us the energy to keep working hard.”
“It was 20 smart girls playing the best lacrosse I’ve ever seen them play … That’s what it takes to win a national championship,” said head coach Eric Valois.
UC Davis graduates seven seniors this year but Colby is confident that the team will continue to succeed in the coming years.
“When I joined as a freshman it was an up-and-coming club. Now we’ve won and it’s been a great opportunity for our team to be recognized by the lacrosse community as a whole,” Colby said.
“It puts us in a great spot to show the nation what our club is all about.”
In addition to their National Championship title, UC Davis earned several All-Division I team honors. Three Aggies made the All-Division team and Fensterwald earned Most Outstanding Midfielder Honors while Corstorphine was named Most Outstanding Goalkeeper.
While the Aggies are looking forward to a little rest before next season, they will not be coming down from the clouds any time soon.
“Seriously no amount of screaming could express the excitement we all felt when we won. It was absolutely crazy,” Colby said.
KIM CARR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.