WCLA Race Descends on Boulder in Mile High Invitational
by J. Jude Hazard | LaxMagazine.com
Audra Horton, a senior captain and defender for No. 10-ranked Colorado, will have her hands full with showdowns against No. 3 BYU, No. 4 Michigan, No. 7 Santa Clara and No. 13 UC Davis at this weekend's Mile High Invitational.
© Dirk Dewachter
The stakes are as high as the altitude in Boulder this weekend for many of the top US Lacrosse Women's Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) teams. Seven of the top 20 teams in the latest WCLA Division I poll will participate in the first-ever Mile High Invitational, hosted by Colorado. Games start Friday.
"We thought the best way to attract good quality teams was to make it apparent up front that we wanted to make a really competitive tournament and bring a talented group of teams together that would really challenge each other," Colorado head coach Dan Finck said. "The big thing early on was getting these teams to commit. That took a lot of work. From there the biggest task is scheduling everybody so everybody gets the games they want."
No. 10 Colorado joins No. 3 BYU, No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Colorado State, No. 7 Santa Clara, No. 12 Texas, No. 13 UC Davis Club and Arizona in action this weekend. (See full schedule below.) The results of the tournament could mean a seismic shift in the rankings next week and will be significant for teams heading into conference tournaments and the WCLA National Championships -- which will be May 9-12 in nearby Colorado Springs.
"We love seeing all of these really competitive teams," Colorado senior defender Lindsey Mills said. "There has been a whirlwind of wins and losses all over the league this year. It's going to be really interesting to see what happens this weekend with all of these teams. It's going to be really fun to watch all of these games."
The Buffaloes have not played in nearly a month. Mills said they have tried to keep practices competitive and non-routine to stay sharp during the break.
"The thing that has been really important to us in the last couple weeks is the way the coaches have been implementing new systems into our play," Mills said. " That change has been helping us keep a consistent competitive edge."
Colorado will face Michigan Club, Brigham Young, Santa Clara and UC Davis this weekend. Finck said he has made adjustments in the offensive system that he believes will make Colorado look like a much different team this weekend than it did earlier in the year. He declined to give specifics regarding the tweaks he's made, quipping, "You'll see this weekend."
"It's going to be a different kind of team coming out this week than what people saw in [tournaments in] Santa Barbara and Georgia. I think we're a lot stronger that we were earlier in the season," Mills said. "These are four very defining games coming up this weekend."
The tournament comes at a pivotal time for Colorado women's lacrosse. The university announced in February that it would add a NCAA Division I women's lacrosse program that will begin play in the spring of 2014, and earlier this week officials named Northwestern assistant Ann Elliot as the team's first head coach.
"I think they did a really awesome job in finding Coach Elliot," Finck said. "With the timing of announcing the varsity coach and having this tournament come up this weekend, I think for Colorado, and the Boulder area specifically, it's a good time to be involved in women's lacrosse."
Both Finck and Mills believe that the addition of a NCAA Division I program will only benefit the quality of play for the club team, which will remain in existence as the Division I program ramps up and eventually begins play two years from now.
"Having a Division I team at Colorado is going to bring really positive things for the club team," Mills said. "Girls that want to come and not necessarily play Division I will know that this is a really strong school for women's lacrosse."
Mile High Invitational - Boulder, Colo.
All games on Kittredge Fields. Times are local.
Friday March 30
1:30 p.m. – Colorado vs. Michigan
3 p.m. – BYU vs. Arizona
4:30 p.m. – Colorado State vs. Santa Clara
6 p.m. – UC Davis vs. Texas
7:30 p.m. – Colorado vs. BYU
Saturday March 31
9 a.m. – Colorado State vs. BYU
10:30 a.m. – Santa Clara vs. Texas
12 p.m. – Michigan vs. Arizona
1:30 p.m. - UC Davis vs. BYU
3 p.m. – Colorado State vs. Texas
4:30 p.m. – Colorado vs. Santa Clara
6 p.m. – UC Davis vs. Michigan
Sunday May 1
8 a.m. – Texas vs. Arizona
9:30 a.m. – Michigan vs. Santa Clara
11 a.m. – Colorado vs. UC Davis
12:30 p.m. – Colorado State vs. Arizona
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