UCLA Wins Its First National Championship

UCLA celebrating their championship.  Photo by Nick Flynn.

Wichita, Kansas — Through the years, the UCLA Bruins have been one of the most consistently successful teams in the WCLA’s Division One ranks. The Bruins have won multiple league championships, had a plethora of players recognized as All-Americans, and qualified for the national tournament 15 times, ranking among the most appearances of any school.

It's therefore surprising that UCLA had never won the WCLA championship, coming closest in 2003 and 2011 with national runner-up finishes.

But that all changed Friday in Wichita, with No. 3 seed UCLA breaking away from No. 5 Northeastern for a 13-8 victory and their first USA Lacrosse WCLA national championship. The Bruins finished the year with a 17-1 overall record.

“We have great talent on this team and the ability to beat anybody when we have a full team effort,” said sophomore Talitha Cheng, named as the tournament’s outstanding attacker after tallying three goals in Friday’s victory.

Two goals in the first quarter from Cheng, also selected as a first team All-American this week, helped the Bruins to an early 4-1 lead.  Northeastern then answered with a three-goal run, including two scores by its own All-America midfielder Molly Burnes, and tied the game at 4-4 early in the second quarter.

But that’s when UCLA started its own game-changing scoring run, tallying five straight goals in less than three minutes to take the lead for good. The Bruins effectively shared the wealth, with five different players scoring goals. Repeated draw controls, including several from Cheng, helped fuel the run, with UCLA leading 9-7 at halftime.

“A lot of credit to Zoe Moskowitz who takes most of our draws,” Cheng said. “We have a system that we try to use, and I try to take the first step to be quick to the ball.”

The teams traded free position goals midway through the third quarter, but the second half belonged to the UCLA defense, which allowed just the one goal over the final 30 minutes and held the Huskies to their second lowest scoring total of the year.

“We did a little scouting and talked about marking their primary drivers,” said UCLA freshman Tyler Hawthorne, selected as the tournament’s most outstanding defender.  

Hawthorne is one of 10 members of an impactful Bruins’ freshman class.

“Some of us really had no idea what to expect when we joined this club program, but it’s a great environment and this team is amazing,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better first year.”

Junior goalie Kate Ruiz, who finished with seven saves, serves as the anchor of the defense and was selected as the tournament’s most outstanding goalie.

“Kate is awesome and does a lot of talking back there to direct us as one unit,” Hawthorne said. “She gets a lot of credit.”

Ellie Morrall scored a game-high four goals to lead Northeastern and was named as the tournament’s most outstanding midfielder. The Huskies finished 12-4 overall while making the first championship game appearance.

Florida Club, which entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Georgia, 15-14, in the third place game.

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.


News story is writen by Paul Ohanian of USA Lacrosse Magazine and was originally published there. Photo by Nick Flynn.

Posted on May 10 2024
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