At the end of this season Utah State women’s lacrosse club didn’t hand out championship rings. There were no trophies to hoist. There were no medals to receive. But that’s not to say the team didn’t have a few crowning achievements.
In their first time representing Utah State at the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates National Championship, the Aggies picked up their first playoff victory en route to a sixth place finish overall.
But just a month prior, Utah State’s playoff dreams were still just that, a dream.
After posting a 7-5 regular season résumé and reaching regionals for the third consecutive season, the Aggies’ were ranked third in their division behind Denver and Utah.
Traditionally, only the first and second teams receive national’s invitations from the WCLA’s selection committee.
However, after falling just one point shy in games against No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and with its remaining three losses coming against teams ranked No. 10 or better, USU had a strong case for a nationals appearance.
“There was this definite feeling that we weren’t done yet,” said Rachel Quigley, a starting wing for the Aggies. “We knew that we had more work to do. At the end of the season we were all exhausted, but we all wanted to keep going.”
To the delight of Quigley and the rest of the team, the committee granted the Aggies a special selection based upon their strong performance and sent the ninth-seeded team to Winston-Salem, North Carolina on May 4-7 to challenge the top teams from Division II.
“Nobody expected much from us,” Quigley said. “We were the underdogs. We came in ranked ninth, we were newcomers and nobody really knew what to expect. So as a team we wanted to come out and knock everyone’s socks off.”
Utah State’s first test came on a mudded field against Oakland University. The Aggies faced a five goal deficit at halftime, but just as the officials considered calling the game for rain Utah State rallied and took a 12-10 lead. On the backs of their defense, and with a little help on offense, the Aggies completed the upset over the Grizzlies 16-15.
“We knew we had a lot on the line,” said Weslie Hatch, Utah State’s leading scorer this season. “In our first game, we knew we had other teams watching to see how we’d do and we wanted to make a good impression. We wanted to prove to everyone that we were there for a reason.”
With the club’s first playoff appearance and victory under their belts, the Aggies next drew a matchup with No. 3 seed Grand Canyon University.
“Just to be a part of history we were all pretty stoked,” Hatch said. “We knew we had another big game against another tough opponent, but at the time we were just riding the high.”
USU was denied a finals appearance following a 14-6 loss, but bounced back in its first consolation game with a 9-5 victory over Montana, followed by a 8-5 loss to Salisbury. After a 2-2 performance in their first national’s appearance, USU ended its single most successful season ranked No. 6 in the nation.
“We came together as a team and showed what we were capable of,” Frost said. “We achieved what we set out to do. We fought harder than we had before, we trusted each other more and we really wanted to win. Next year, we will be hungrier, more driven and we will put Utah State on the map.”