The UC Santa Cruz men’s lacrosse team sought redemption as it faced off against the University of Nevada Wolfpack in a rematch of the first round of the 2015 Western Collegiate Lacrosse League (WCLL) playoffs, but fell short 9-6.
“Most of us were excited to play [Nevada], we played earlier in the season and lost by three and lots of key players were hurt in that game, so we thought this match was going to be tough because they’ve turned into a pretty strong rival,” said senior captain David Cowman.
The Slugs came into the game with a clear plan — stop sophomore attacker Alec Ledbetter, who led the Pack with 38 goals this past season.
“Alec is really fast and athletic, if we wanted to limit [Nevada’s] points, we had to shut him down — and we knew if we could shut him down we could be successful,” freshman Isaac Mier said.
While UCSC defender David Leonard and the Slugs held Ledbetter to two points, the 2015 rematch saw the same result as last season, as the Pack defeated the Slugs 12-6 across the bay in Novato, California.
UCSC was held without a goal in the first half, making it 6-0 Nevada. It wasn’t until the third quarter when UCSC found the back of the net on a rip from Mier. But it was too little too late as the Slugs were down 8-1 with a quarter and a half to play.
“That was all mostly due to mental breakdowns on our part, we typically come out slow and it took a while to realize it was our last game,” Cowman said. “A lot of people didn’t realize what was at stake.”
Cowman led the game with three goals, counting for half of UCSC’s total offense. In a season full of injuries, it was a game that his teammates believe demonstrated his relentlessness as an athlete.
“[Cowman] was probably our best overall player, but he played most of his season with a broken thumb and pulled hamstrings. Once he really started to recover, he got his game back,” said head coach Mike O’Neill. “He was one of our strongest leaders on the field and behind the scenes, we were very lucky to have him.”
But Cowman’s efforts were no match against Nevada, who had 13 different players who scored at least a point.
“They have a lot of players who are almost as good as [Ledbetter] and they were able to get some points,” freshman Mier said.
Mier, who lead the WCLL with 43 goals, was held to one point for the Slugs. Just as the Slugs intended to shut down Ledbetter, Nevada shut down Mier. Mier faced double teaming nearly every time he touched the ball, which made it difficult to make the plays he was used to making all season.
But with 16 strong freshmen and a solidified team chemistry to help them grow, the young team shows promise. Almost its entire roster is returning, so players can only get faster and stronger, even if it means through tough losses.
“Everybody on the team gets along really well, which is new for the program, everybody’s best friends,” Cowman said. “So that, combined with talent, should make for a solid team in the next few years and should allow us to be as dominant and competitive as we were in previous seasons.”