From East Field to East Remote

Men’s lacrosse defeats Humbolt State despite season hardships

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This season, UC Santa Cruz men’s lacrosse has been hard at work perfecting its stick checks, face-offs and conditioning. Players have been pushed to the limits, running two hour practices four times a week to build strength and endurance. Only, unlike other seasons, they’re not practicing on a field. They’re swerving in between parked cars in the East Remote parking lot.

A UCSC attacker carries the ball down the field, pursued by a Humboldt defender during the Slug’s resounding 16-2 win over Humboldt State. Photo by Alonso Hernandez
A UCSC attacker carries the ball down the field, pursued by a Humboldt defender during the Slug’s resounding 16-2 win over Humboldt State. Photo by Alonso Hernandez

Men’s lacrosse had to either relocate or forfeit the previous five scheduled home games since floods shut down the Upper East Field intermittently from February through April due to the heavy rain Santa Cruz received — 37 inches from October 2016 to February 2017. This was the highest amount recorded in the county since 1997-98.

But one would not know the team’s challenges based on its one and only home game. Goals struck the back of nets. Crowds erupted in cheers. The team overcame a season-long battle against Mother Nature. These were the ingredients on senior night as UCSC men’s lacrosse team operated seamlessly on April 22 to secure a 16-2 victory against Humboldt State University despite limited practice.

The UCSC team carried this high-level performance throughout the season, contributing to the Slugs’ 12-3 record.

“[The team] had to overcome many obstacles to remain competitive,” said head coach Michael O’Neill. “We had to fight to get the field, overcome the rigorous quarter system, we even had to practice on a concrete parking lot. But yet here we are, nationally ranked on our way to the playoffs.”

The closure forced the team to rent its own field in Morgan Hill as an alternative location for home games. The lacrosse team financed the field rental through fundraisers, donations and out-of-pocket expenses. The April 22 match against Humboldt was this season’s only on-campus game.

Midfielder Chase Morris advances onto Humboldt State’s half of the field in a dominant offensive performance by the Banana Slugs. Photo by Alonso Hernandez
Midfielder Chase Morris advances onto Humboldt State’s half of the field in a dominant offensive performance by the Banana Slugs. Photo by Alonso Hernandez

“In the past, when the top field got rained out, they gave priority to NCAA teams for the Lower East Field and they just look over club sports,” said senior captain and goalie Tim Greene.

The Lower East Field served as an alternative option but OPERS gives priority to any of the 15 NCAA affiliate teams, often neglecting lacrosse since it’s a club sport. The team had to settle for off-hour meetings like 7 a.m., when the field is mostly empty.

“It’s hard to practice with their academic schedule,” O’Neill said. “A lot of times we have to come in early mornings for practice just because we can’t get field time and most students don’t have class at that time.”

Members of the UCSC men’s lacrosse team celebrates after scoring a goal during Saturday’s game, the first the team actually played at home. Photo by Alonso Hernandez
Members of the UCSC men’s lacrosse team celebrates after scoring a goal during Saturday’s game, the first the team actually played at home. Photo by Alonso Hernandez

Team members reiterated that the theme of the season was overcoming adversity due to the limited field access and a lackluster 7-8 record last season. The team took matters into its own hands when they lacked administrative support.

“The school definitely did not make it easy for us,” said junior midfielder Ed Guerra. “We still found a way to get it done because we had games that needed to be played so nothing was going to stop us regardless.”

Men’s lacrosse usually aims to practice at least four times a week for between one and a half and two hours daily. Yet this year the team only had four practices in parking lots, like East Remote, before its first two games because the school lacks a turf field — the standard for lacrosse competitions.

“We just don’t have the appropriate facilities we need as a team,” Greene said. “Something like rain should not be a factor in preventing us from playing. I just wish [the school] gave us more support.”

UCSC men’s lacrosse will be competing in the Western Collegiate Lacrosse League playoffs against UC Davis on April 29 in Novato, CA. The winner will compete in DII championship game on May 8-13 in Orange County, CA.