A year removed from placing fifth in the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (WCLA) national tournament, Georgia’s club lacrosse team won its first national championship with an 8-7 victory over No. 11 Minnesota on Saturday, May 7.
The Bulldogs entered the season with low expectations, having lost a large number of seniors from the prior year.
“We had the mindset going in that we were going to make this a really big building season, get some more freshmen, and work toward getting back up to where we were,” Caroline Youngs, an rising senior goalie said. “But then, before the season started, when we do tryouts we go scrimmage some D-1 teams to really go see where we’re at. We were actually competing pretty well, and we were kind of surprised, looking around and thinking, ‘wait, this might actually be a really good team.’”
Georgia’s stout defense and outstanding goalie play propelled them throughout the season. However, the Bulldogs’ lacked a lone premiere scoring threat, forcing them to get their offense by committee.
“I think the most incredible stat throughout the tournament was that we had at least six different players score in each of the four games,” head coach Adam Weinstein said. “That’s really difficult to do at the collegiate level, and at the club level. It was really exciting, and it was just a total team effort in each game. It wasn’t the same group each time around; it was just girls stepping up when they needed to.”
Perhaps a statistic more indicative of the improbable run made by Georgia is that the Bulldogs enter each season with a budget of $40,000, with roughly ten percent of it funded from the university.
The team must pay dues in order to be a member of their conference, as well as the league they play in. Additionally, the team annually participates in tournament in Santa Barbara, California – a trip that costs between twelve to fifteen thousand dollars. They also spend an estimated ten thousand dollars on a trip late in the season to a tournament in Boulder, Colorado.
“In our case, in order to compete nationally with the league, you really have got to travel,” Weinstein said. “And you’ve got to travel to tournaments all over the country to face the level of competition that will give you a chance to compete at nationals. And to compete at a high level so you can see what the best level of competition out there is.”
As a result of the lack of funding, the girls are forced to pay large dues in order to be a member of the team.
“It’s sometimes hard for me to answer questions from people who don’t know about the team, who ask me why I would pay to play a sport,” Youngs said. “It ends up being so worth it, though, because now we’re national champions. I guess I could compare it to a Greek life situation. Yes, we’re paying for it. But, at the same time, [my teammates] are like my best friends. So at the end of the day, we’re paying for and working toward the same common goal. Plus, we do a lot of fundraising.”
Different types of fundraising for the girls include sending out booster letters to friends and family, participating in bake sales, and putting on clinics at middle schools and high schools for up-and-coming lacrosse players.
Being crowned national champions served as a platform for the lacrosse team to prove that they should be taken more seriously and, as a result, funded more efficiently.
“It was just kind of like showing them that we are good enough to be funded more,” Arden Birdwell, a senior captain of the team, said of winning the championship. “Like, we can compete against those really good teams, even Division I teams, and that we deserve more. Other teams get five to six thousand dollars in funding and we don’t even get half of that.”
Aside from receiving additional funds to help their budget, coaches and members of the club lacrosse team hope to be able to receive more recognition for their accomplishments.
Weinstein explained that when they travel to tournaments and play in games, they wear Georgia Lacrosse shirts and Georgia gear. They proudly represent the university on a daily basis, and hope to receive more recognition and attention for it.
Winning can solve a lot of problems, and the team hopes that their national title win can be a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
“Whether it leads to more funding, that would also be great,” Weinstein said. “I think the club sports program does typically tend to allocate more funds to the more established and successful programs that stay compliant with the rules and such. So I’m hopeful that, with our success this year, they’ll see how competitive we are and how seriously we take it, and they’ll start to allocate a little more and give us more resources.”