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No. 1 seed Florida Club avoid a first round upset.

History is on No. 1 Florida’s Side on Opening Day of WCLA D1 Tournament

May 7, 2024
Paul Ohanian
Nick Flynn

It’s been a historic season for the University of Florida club team. The Gators captured the Southeastern Women’s Lacrosse League (SWLL) championship, claimed the league’s automatic bid for the WCLA National Championship for the first time, and also earned the top seed for the championship tournament for the first time. There’s a lot to be proud of.

But at halftime of Tuesday’s opening round game in Wichita, the Gators were on the cusp of making some more history, but it’s the kind that no team wants. There’s never been an upset in the 1-vs-16 opening round game in the 23-year history of the WCLA Championship Tournament, but No. 1 seed Florida trailed No. 16 Utah Valley, 5-4, at intermission.

Fortunately, the wake-up call the team needed arrived during coach Ben Churba’s halftime talk, and inspired the Gators to dominate the second half en route to a 12-6 victory.

“I think we just needed to get our feet under us after 10 days off,” Churba said. “We settled down in the second half and we were locked in.”

The strong second half was especially evident on the defensive end, with sophomore defender Ashley Faini finishing with five caused turnovers and goalie Jordyn Salbe adding six saves. Senior Mackenzie Mazor’s game-high three goals, all in the second half, keyed the offense’s resurgence.

“We played with great confidence on defense in the second half,” Churba said. “That’s the team that we are.”

One other historical note that emerged from Tuesday is that there will not be a three-peat WCLA champion in 2024. After winning the 2022 and 2023 D-I titles, Boston College Club was defeated by No. 9 Virginia Tech, 15-10, with the Hokies scoring the last six goals of the game to seal the victory. Strong goalie play from Sammie Reibsamen and three second half goals by Jordan Condon led the way.

“We executed very well today and did a really good job of redefending,” said club vice-president Nicole Bianco, who ran the show for the Hokies in club president Meredith Millard’s absence. “We also won draws, and if you win draws, you rule the world.”

Other than Florida, each of the other top five seeds all advanced with relative ease into Wednesday’s Division I quarterfinals.

Led by four goals from senior Savannah Sabol and three from Ryanne King, No. 2 Georgia made quick work of No. 15 Grand Canyon, jumping out to an 11-3 first quarter lead and finishing with a 22-5 victory.

The Bulldogs (15-1) now advance to play No. 10 Michigan Club, which rallied for a 15-9 win over No. 7 Florida State in one of the day’s mild first round upsets. Four goals by senior Casey Reichwein helped keep the Wolverines (9-4) alive.

“We have a lot of newcomers on our team this year, so there’s been a learning curve as the season has moved along,” Reichwein said. “The good thing is that we have gotten better with each game. It feels good to win.”

No. 3 UCLA dominated No. 14 Washington, 21-4, with 10 different players netting goals.  Four goals from freshman Caroline Underwood led the way for the Bruins (14-1), who now face No. 11 Clemson Club.

The Tigers upset No. 6 Utah, 12-10, despite playing without four of their key players who had travel delays and didn’t arrive in time for Tuesday’s game. Despite being shorthanded, Clemson got stellar goaltending from senior Colleen Besche and a team-high three goals from junior Maya Mohring to register the biggest upset of the opening round.

“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have everybody here today, but I think we still played extremely hard and did a great job of fighting back after trailing early in the game,” Mohring said. “We were really thin at midfield and moved some people around the best we could.”

The good news for the Tigers is that the reinforcements are expected to be back in the line-up for Wednesday’s game against UCLA.

No. 4 Pittsburgh Club and No. 5 Northeastern both advanced with identical 18-7 victories to advance to a match-up against each other in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round.  The Panthers (10-1) built an 11-4 halftime lead against No. 13 Texas A&M and cruised through the second half, while the Huskies also led from start to finish against No. 12 Arizona State Club. Four goals by senior Molly Burnes led Northwestern, which improved to 10-3 overall.

In addition to the Division I quarterfinal games, Wednesday’s schedule also features the opening round of games in the Division II tournament. USA Lacrosse will provide free video streaming of all D-I and D-II games throughout the tournament. Links for video streaming can be accessed at  

The WCLA is comprised of nearly 150 college club (non-varsity) teams from coast-to-coast that compete under the USA Lacrosse umbrella. From these, the most deserving Division I and Division II club teams qualify for the season-ending national championships, conducted annually since 2001 by USA Lacrosse.

Gatorade, Enovis, Lacrosse Specialties, and Powell Lacrosse serve as official event sponsors for the 2024 USA Lacrosse WCLA Championships, with local support provided by Wichita Wind Surge, Chick-Fil-A Wichita East, Visit Wichita, Chicken N Pickle of Wichita, Angelo's Italian Catering, Tanganyika Wildlife Park, and Butler Creative TV.

Tuesday's Division i game scores

#1 Florida Club 12, #16 Utah Valley 6 
#2 Georgia 22, #15 Grand Canyon 5 
#3 UCLA21, #14 Washington 4 
#4 Pittsburgh Club 18, #13 Texas A&M 7 
#5 Northeastern 18, #12 Arizona State Club 7 
#11 Clemson Club 12, #6 Utah 10 
10 Michigan Club 15, #7 Florida State 9 
#9 Virginia Tech Club 15, #8 Boston College Club 10

Wednesday’s Division I Quarterfinal Schedule 

#1 Florida Club (15-1) vs. #9 Virginia Tech Club (8-5) 
#2 Georgia (15-1) vs.#10 Michigan Club (9-4) 
#3 UCLA (14-1) vs. #11 Clemson Club (10-5) 
#4 Pittsburgh Club (10-1) vs. #5 Northeastern (10-3)