After a complete washout in 2017, Paul Ramsey wasn’t sure that he wanted to continue running the Santa Barbara Shootout any longer. The once-in-a-century tropical storm that ravaged California last February literally wiped out the annual event that marks the unofficial start to the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) season. Fields were under water; parking lots were inaccessible due to mud. Games were cancelled.
Over three decades, the seaside community of Santa Barbara had grown into a popular early-season destination for women’s collegiate club players. With the Pacific Ocean on one side, the picturesque Santa Ynez Mountains to the other, and warm temperatures offering a respite from the cold weather still gripping much of the nation, Santa Barbara had become the WCLA’s featured gathering place to start the season.
But besieged from all sides, tournament founder and director Ramsey gave thought to the idea that perhaps, after 28 years, the time had come to put the event away.
It was in the days following the cancellation of the 2017 Shootout, in the midst of handling an avalanche of phone calls from disgruntled coaches and parents, when one call convinced the beleaguered Ramsey to forge ahead.
“BYU coach Nikki Dabrowski called and said that everyone on her team had already voted to come back in 2018,” Ramsey said. “They understood that I was taking a lot of heat from coaches and she asked if I was okay. Because of Nikki, there is a Shootout in 2018.”
Dabrowski did not realize the impact of that phone call.
“We just knew how much work it took for Paul to put this event together, and that he was sad about how it turned out,” said Dabrowski, now in her third year as coach at her alma mater. She had participated in the Shootout during her playing career as well.
“We wanted him to know that we appreciated his efforts and that we fully supported him.”
Supportive phone calls in subsequent weeks from several other schools, including Western Washington and Colorado State, were also helpful.
“At that point, we were off and running,” Ramsey said. “Because of their influence, I would have run an eight-team tournament if that’s all we had.”
The 2018 tournament, with far more than eight teams, begins Friday and continues through Sunday.
Ramsey does note that last year’s disaster did force some changes, including a downsizing of the event in order to have greater flexibility for rescheduling if inclement weather does occur.
The field size, which had grown to as many as 64 collegiate teams, was cut back to a max of 20 Division I teams and 16 Division II teams this year.
In addition, the high school division that traditionally ran alongside the collegiate event, with as many as 24 teams, was moved to an alternate weekend.
The Shootout also has a new home this year, the Santa Barbara Polo Club, a venue with better infrastructure to support a sizeable event. Additionally, Ramsey has added cancellation insurance as part of each team’s entry fee.
“If the worst were to happen again, we would be able to fully refund the entry fee to all teams,” he said. “Most teams last year understood we’d already spent quite a bit on fixed expenses, but some did not. This level of insurance eliminates the concern.”
To foster transparency, the Shootout’s official website now features a detailed breakdown of the expenses that Ramsey incurs to host the tournament, an unusual disclosure for any event operator.
All-American Jessica Berg and Colorado State are among the returnees to Santa Barbara in 2018.
Despite the changes and Ramsey’s efforts to build new safeguards, there have been defectors. Several of the WCLA’s traditional heavyweights who had been loyal Santa Barbara attendees through the years are taking an alternate path this spring. Michigan, Pittsburgh, Georgia, Cal Poly, and others have committed to playing in UCLA’s inaugural Golden State Invitational, also this weekend.
The fact that they are gathered just 90 miles down the coast seems rather intentional.
“Was this move somewhat reactionary to last year? In some way, yes,” said Pittsburgh coach Gary Neft. “There were a lot of upset people last year.”
“We started having discussions about the possibility of doing this immediately after Santa Barbara last year,” said Paige Lin, formerly the coach at UCLA. “But the timing is coincidental because of our men’s team.”
Officials at UCLA gave their approval for the new event last summer, but stipulated that it run simultaneously with the Pac-12 Shootout hosted annually by the school’s men’s club team. That event has always been on the same weekend as the Santa Barbara Shootout.
School administrators also asked Lin, who had already stepped down as UCLA’s coach at the conclusion of the 2017 season, if she would serve as the tournament director.
“The aspiration is not to do another Santa Barbara Shootout,” Lin said. “This is not that type of an operation.”
In fact, despite having several of the WCLA’s headliners, the Golden State Invitational has just seven total participating teams. All of the games will be played on one lighted turf field on campus. The commitment for all the parties beyond this year has yet to be determined.
“We only play four teams during the weekend, so it doesn’t really matter that there are 40 or 50 teams in Santa Barbara,” Neft said. “The logistics are a lot easier for us in going to Los Angeles.”
“Truthfully, the other teams were the driving force behind this because many of them were not interested in going back to Santa Barbara,” said Lin, “but they were all interested in playing games in California. Who wouldn’t be?”
For Michigan, the move to UCLA’s event was simply a matter of following the competition.
“We want to play the best teams, and preferably, the West Coast teams,” said Michigan coach David McKinnon. “Because of that, we really didn’t have a choice.”
So, jostling aside, as the 2018 WCLA season kicks into high gear this week, much of the scene will be no different than previous years. Santa Barbara will once again serve as the epicenter, with 36 Division I and II teams (and four ‘B’ teams) gathered from many corners of the country for three days of competition, while Los Angeles debuts as a de facto satellite site for several of the nation’s other top programs.
In total, split between the two locations, 11 of the 16 Division I teams and six of the 12 Division II teams that qualified for last year’s WCLA National Tournament descend upon Southern California this weekend.
“Even if the Shootout doesn’t ever get back to being a preview of the National Tournament’s semifinal games, hopefully, it will still be a great place for all the other WCLA teams,” Ramsey said. “Our goal will be to give them a National Tournament level experience.”
The WCLA features 80 Division I teams and 153 Division II teams that compete under the US Lacrosse umbrella. The 2018 season will conclude with the D-I and D-II national championships in Round Rock, Texas, May 9-12.
To view photos from the event, check out the blog article here.
WCLA Division I and Division II National Championships
The US Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) Division I and Division II National Championships showcase the nation’s premier non-varsity collegiate teams. The Division I field features 16 teams; the Division II tournament consists of 12 teams.
SPARKS, Md. (Dec. 11, 2017 ) – After an absence of 12 years, the US Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) national championship event will be returning to Texas. US Lacrosse announced today that the 2018 WCLA Division I and II National Championships will be played at the new Round Rock Multipurpose Complex, located about 15 miles north of Austin in the Central Texas hill country.
Dates for the 2018 championship tournament are May 9-12. All tournament games will be played at the new 60-acre venue that features five natural grass fields, five turf fields, abundant on-site parking, Musco sports lighting, a restroom/concessions building, meeting rooms, and additional spectator amenities. The venue opened for play in Spring, 2017.
“The opportunity to compete in the WCLA National Championship is what our club teams strive for every year, and we are excited to bring our tournament to this beautiful new facility in Round Rock,” said Liz Holmes, chair of the US Lacrosse WCLA Committee.
Nearly 230 non-varsity collegiate teams comprise the WCLA and compete under the US Lacrosse umbrella. The annual Division I and Division II National Championships showcase the WCLA’s premier teams, featuring a Division I field of 16 teams and a Division II tournament of 12 qualifying teams.
“The WCLA is an integral part of our US Lacrosse family, and the growing number of teams participating in the league and the great level of competition at the National Championship truly demonstrate the commitment of the athletes and their enthusiasm for lacrosse,” said Caitlin Kelley, women’s game senior manager at US Lacrosse. “We’re delighted to bring the event to an area of the country where the game is growing rapidly and to showcase the collegiate opportunities available for female athletes.”
Started in 2001, the WCLA Championship has had nine previous host sites and is making its second appearance in Texas. The 2006 championship was played in Dallas. Salt Lake City served as host site for last year’s championship event.
“We are honored to host the 2018 WCLA National Championship in the Sports Capital of Texas. Our new, state-of-the-art Round Rock Multipurpose Complex was designed for national tournaments like lacrosse and it's sure to be a memorable weekend for all,” said Nancy Yawn, director of the Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are excited for the players, families and fans to experience the winning spirit of Round Rock and everything it has to offer.”
In 2017, the Delaware Blue Hens won the Division I title, their first-ever national championship, while the Denver Pioneers repeated as the Division II champions.
“The talent, dedication, and love of our sport that these athletes display on the lacrosse field is uplifting and wonderful to witness,” Holmes said. “Club lacrosse provides a venue for these women to continue to play the game and compete at a high level, and is a valuable part of their collegiate experience.”
“The WCLA volunteer leadership and US Lacrosse staff put on an amazing event every May to showcase the best of the best in collegiate women’s club lacrosse, and we are looking forward to another great WCLA season and an exciting 2018 championship in Texas,” Kelly said.
About US Lacrosse
US Lacrosse, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, is the national governing body of men’s and women’s lacrosse and the home of the nation’s fastest-growing sport. US Lacrosse has more than 450,000 members in 68 regional chapters across the country. Through responsive and effective leadership, US Lacrosse provides programs and services to inspire participation while protecting the integrity of the sport.
About Round Rock
Billing itself as the Sports Capital of Texas, Round Rock has become a premier destination for youth and recreational sports, with parks and athletic facilities that host a wide variety of tournaments and events year-round. Downtown Round Rock features restaurants, shops, bars and other entertainment options. This visitor’s guide (PDF) features a comprehensive listing of area dining, lodging, attractions, and more.
Below are tournaments still looking to add teams:
Boise Classic 2-23 to 2-25, D2 event. If interested please contact Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 1, 2017
- Team Membership Dues and 2017 WCLA Team Application Form deadline. Late fee applies for dues not paid and applications received by this deadline.
- Individual team petitions to move up or down in DI or DII classification must be made to the WCLA Chair.
- Deadline for leagues to submit a representative to the Rankings and Recognition Committees to meet the criteria for an AQ. Please email the WCLA Chair with your representatives.
February 15, 2018
To be eligible for the WCLA National Tournament, teams must complete these requirements by this date:
April 1, 2018
- Academic All-American submissions due to the D1 or D2 recognition's chair. Be advised that your submission must include a copy of an unofficial transcript. Nominations can be scanned and emailed or post-mark mailed by this date.
- WCLA All-American, Coach of the Year and Jenn Eames Team Award submissions due to your Regional Recognition Committee Representative. To download forms please see the Committee Page.
April 16, 2018 (9:00PM PDT)
- Each league that has an Automatic Qualification bid to the WCLA National Tournament must submit their representative by email to the Rankings Committee Chair and the Governance Chair by this time and date. Leagues are strongly encouraged to re-read the current WCLA Operating Procedures/Bylaws document AND Rankings document to ensure proper compliance. Failure to abide by this rule can result in your league forfeiting its Automatic Qualifier (AQ).
SPARKS, Md. (Dec. 11, 2017) – US Lacrosse announced today that the 2018 WCLA Division I and II National Championships will be played at the new Round Rock Multipurpose Complex, located about 15 miles north of Austin in the Central Texas hill country.
Dates for the 2018 championship tournament are May 9-12. All tournament games will be played at the new 60-acre venue that features five natural grass fields, five turf fields, abundant on-site parking, Musco sports lighting, a restroom/concessions building, meeting rooms, and additional spectator amenities.