For the first time in program history, the Utah State women’s lacrosse club (7-5) will be representing the Aggies in the national championship tournament.
“It’s a really nice reward for us,” said senior center Emily Krupa. “It’s exciting to be able to represent Utah State for the first time on such a large scale for women’s lacrosse.”
The 2016 US Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates National Championships will be held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on May 4-7.
“We’ve had this goal for two years now,” said head coach Michelle Bowman. “Everybody’s prepared, but excited and just ready to get out there and play hard.”
The Aggies, who made the tournament as the ninth-seed, are one of 12 teams competing in the Division II bracket. They are joined by division foes Denver (10-2) and Utah (11-2), who are seeded No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
“We definitely feel like we’re strong competitors,” Krupa said. “I would say that we’re serious. Just because it’s our first year qualifying, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t potential contenders … I wouldn’t count us out.”
The tournament begins with pool play, then proceeds to the double-elimination knockout rounds. The Aggies will play Oakland University (14-3) and Grand Canyon University (11-0) in pool play.
Utah State earned its place in the tournament primarily on the strength of a 4-0 showing at a two-day competition in early April, but it was the team’s performance against both Utah and Denver that gave the team confidence.
The Aggies defeated Utah for the first time in program history in an exhibition game in the fall, then narrowly lost the regular season rematch, 6-5, in Salt Lake City in March.
“We always tend to lose by a sizeable amount when we play them, so that was really exciting,” Krupa said. “That really made us feel like we were at that next level where we could compete with the best teams in the country, really.”
Utah State also pushed Denver to the brink, falling 12-11 in a sudden-death overtime in the first round of the regional tournament.
The club’s appearance in the tournament is validation of the effort the team put in this season, said senior Hali King.
“We worked really hard the whole season to get to this point,” King said. “The fact that now we’ve made it is a huge accomplishment to us.”
The team has steadily improved year-over-year, qualifying for regionals each of the last three seasons before receiving the bid to the national tournament.
“Each year our program has developed a lot skill-wise and we’ve had a lot more participation,” Krupa said. “Our program only a few years ago was just a handful of girls who love lacrosse and got together and just wanted to practice – we didn’t really have field time or a coach or anything. It’s really exciting to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.”
The campus rec program has been critical to the club’s success, Bowman said.
“We wouldn’t have an opportunity like this if it wasn’t for an organization like campus rec and the work of Alys (Staten, the club sport coordinator),” Bowman said. “We’re very appreciative of all the work that they do.”
Though the tournament schedule has yet to be released, the Aggies will likely begin play on May 5.