The Western women’s lacrosse club won its first Northwest Women’s Lacrosse League title in a match against the University of Washington on Sunday, April 12, in Corvallis, Oregon.
But they didn’t just win the championship game; they also made team history. Western’s team has never before won the conference title.
“We’ve typically been in the championship game but we usually take second, so this was really exciting,” said senior Chelsea Hultz, captain, club president and sister of Amanda Hultz.
Chelsea Hultz attributes part of the team’s success to mental toughness and an improved overall attitude.
“It seemed like everyone got a better grasp on separating the game and playing lacrosse from whatever else they had going on,” she said.
Senior and captain Linnea Whisman said in past seasons a few players have dominated the field but the team is now playing with much more cohesion.
“I think that the highlight of this season was seeing everyone work together so well,” Whisman said.
Whisman was unable to play at all this year due to a concussion she received at the beginning of last season.
The final game against Washington was a nail-bitter Western won in the final seconds of the match. Western had only a one-goal lead when Washington stepped up to take a penalty shot, which, if scored, would have sent the match into overtime.
But Western’s sophomore goalie Sheri McCarty was able to make the save and secure the team’s lead. The final score was 12-11.
“After the whistle blew, we all ran on the field, huddling her,” said Amanda Hultz, sophomore player and club treasurer. “Everyone was laughing and crying and hugging each other. It was a really good moment.”
With the league champion title secured, the team would usually be heading for a national competition, but they ran into some unexpected challenges.
This year, the NWWLL appointed a new president because the former had failed to meet certain requirements and deadlines, Chelsea Hultz said.
“We came to find out with our new league president that all the teams in our league had been on probation for the last two years, and no one knew,” she said.
This meant the team lost their automatic qualification bid to go to nationals. The team was entered for an at-large bid to go to nationals, but found out earlier this week they were not selected.
“I don’t think it really made anyone play differently,” Amanda Hultz said. “I think everyone still played for the love of the game.”
Despite the promise of automatic qualification, the team played their best to try and take any chance they could get for a bid at nationals, she said.
“I felt bad mostly for the seniors,” she said. “I felt like this was our year to go. I wanted them to go; I wanted my sister to go.”
Chelsea Hultz is confident the league will get the automatic qualification bid back next season and the team will be ready to take it.
“I think they’ll be better next year,” Chelsea Hultz said. “We’re losing three people, but I’m sure we’ll get more freshmen in and [Whisman] will probably be playing next year and she’s a really good player.”
Whisman said she’s recovering from her concussion and expects to be able to play next year.
“It was pretty cool being the best in our league this year,” Whisman said. “We’ll hopefully do that again next year and keep the good times rolling.”