Photo by Nita-Rose Evans.
Photo by Nita-Rose Evans.

The UC Santa Cruz Men’s Lacrosse season came to a definitive end on Sunday, as the Banana Slugs endured a 9 to 5 loss at the hands of conference rivals Saint Mary’s college.

The team was ranked 16th in the nation going into Sunday’s conference championship and held a strong record, with 10 wins and 5 losses. They had also previously defeated Saint Mary’s during the regular season.

Team president and senior mid-fielder Mark Del Prete called the game a tough defeat, considering that this is the Slugs’ first loss to Saint Mary’s in three seasons.

“It was a pretty huge loss for us, but Saint Mary’s is definitely getting better, along with most of our league,” Del Prete said. “I think it could honestly go back and forth between the two of us for number one, but on Sunday they just wanted it more than us.”

Samir Chaudry, a third-year film and digital media major and next year’s team president, said that the team’s overconfidence attributed to their loss.

“We got out-played and out-prepared, but it was a big learning experience for us,” Chaudry said. “These teams are going to start to get better and better, and we’re just going to have to work harder if we want to win the championship.”

Looking back on the season, Del Prete said he was proud of the team and the way they met some new challenges, such as the search for a new head coach and the push to gain national recognition.

“We had to hire a new coach and really start fresh with the program, new guidelines, new uniforms and new gear,” Del Prete said. “This is also the first year where we traveled so much, because we really wanted to go out and show that we weren’t afraid to play anyone. We played ranked opponents from Southern California, Oregon and Utah.”

Head Coach John McCreery coached at Ole Miss for two years prior to coming to Santa Cruz. He and his players all considered the loss to Saint Mary’s their low point of the season. He was, however, still happy with his team’s results throughout the season.

“Getting 10 wins, being nationally ranked, being invited to national tournaments — we did accomplish a lot this season. [It’s] the most UCSC has ever accomplished in its past,” McCreery said.

Chaudry said he has seen the program’s focus change to a more professional and serious tone since McCreery’s arrival.

“Last year the team was more of a club program, but this year we’ve tried to model ourselves after more varsity collegiate programs,” Chaudry said. “The program is now organized in such a way that it mirrors a lot of the same concepts and organization of varsity programs, which has brought a new level of seriousness to the team.”

One of the most drastic changes that occurred was the outreach to the community through its Role Models program. During this season, the team donated their helmets to Watsonville High School, which was able to expand its Junior Varsity program because of the Banana Slugs.

“The team is very positive, and cares about the sport of lacrosse and helping the community,” McCreery said. “Considering that we are the only college program in the county, we should be the leader for the lacrosse community in a positive way.”

The Role Models program also allows the opportunity to recruit within the community, as well as helping to support lacrosse within the Santa Cruz, Central Coast and Bay Area.

“We’ve donated our helmets, we’ve helped out at clinics that are set up by our coaches, and we also have two players on our team who are coaching high school teams,” team president Del Prete said. “We want to represent Santa Cruz in a good way, and help recruit local players and help build up our program.”

Del Prete expects to see the program continue its success into the next season, thanks largely to the recruitment of new players and the stability of the coaching staff.

“I see no reason why this program cannot grow exponentially in the next few seasons, and continue to dominate and compete within the conference.”