Column: Success in the PAC-12 will take time for SDSU women’s lacrosse

With ten key seniors departing from SDSU, the Aztecs will need a great offseason before their debut to the Pac-12 Conference in 2024


SDSU Lacrosse scores against Arizona State at the Aztec Lacrosse Field on April 21, 2023.

by Adam Correa, Senior Staff Writer

The San Diego State women’s lacrosse team (6-10), who has played as an independent team for the past two seasons, is joining the Pac-12 conference in 2024. Against the current Pac-12 teams and newly added Pac-12 team, UC Davis, the Aztecs have a 27-48 overall record. Since ten of the best seniors are departing from the program, it might take a couple of years until SDSU is great in the conference.

“This is probably one of the bigger classes that we have lost this year for sure,” head coach Kylee White said. “I think the legacy that the seniors are leaving, even though they have had more experience, they are giving confidence to that younger group in all the right ways.”

They might have given confidence to the younger class, but this senior group is hard to replace.

Graduating senior attacker Deanna Balsama, who set an all-time school record of 62 goals in 2022, was the most impactful player offensively for the program. That same year she had two eight-goal games, which are program highs. She finished the 2023 season, her last season on the Mesa, with 47 goals, eight assists, 15 turnovers caused and a .770 shot on goal percentage.

Graduating senior attacker Caitlin Jones, who battled adversity with injuries through her tenure at SDSU, made a huge impact this past season. She played all 16 games, scored 19 goals and was the most reliable on the draw, accumulating 62 draw controls. 

The other eight graduating seniors had multiple qualities that the Aztecs needed going into their first season in Pac-12 conference play. Defensively, with the departure of strong defenders Maggie Marion, Annie Jubb, Shelby Hook and Hayley Anderson, is where the weakness might lie the most.

“We need to fill some space and some spots,” White said. “We need people wanting to defend (because) we obviously lost my entire defense.”

Since senior midfielder Cailin Young and Jones, two of the most reliable players on the draw, will be graduating, players like 2023-24 senior midfielder Mia Kohn and sophomore midfielder Kate Christos will be the ones asked to step up in 2024. They have also been decent on the draw throughout their time at SDSU, but the Scarlet and Black are getting another piece to the draw puzzle.

The Aztecs will have 2023-24 senior midfielder Sloane Skalstad back after being sidelined with an ACL injury this past season. White said Skalstad will be important on the draw in the upcoming season.

SDSU senior Caitlin Jones scores against Arizona State at the Aztec Lacrosse Field on April 21, 2023.
SDSU senior Caitlin Jones scores against Arizona State at the Aztec Lacrosse Field on April 21, 2023.

“(Skalstad is) super smart. She has been helping in all the preparation with draws,” White said. “So I expect her to be a huge contributor on the draw next season.”

Against the Pac-12 teams that SDSU lost to this past season, USC (score: 16-7) and Colorado (score: 17-4), they combined for only 12 draw controls while the Trojans and Buffaloes had 20 draw controls each. 

The Aztecs need to do extensive work on the draw this offseason while working on team coordination; making sure each player is in perfect alignment with where their teammate who is taking the draw throws it up. It can be difficult at times if the opposing player taking the draw gets it up first, but it will be the other Aztec’s job to be ready for that possibility. 

This team has an opportunity to win a Pac-12 Championship next season, but it will take a good offseason of training the existing players while looking to the transfer portal to fulfill that goal. 

Offensively, SDSU is losing a lot of great players. Senior attacker Sydney Wolfington was a great set up person, Balsama was the premiere goal-scorer and Jones was a hard worker when it came to rushing the net to score.

For the Aztecs to improve offensively before the 2024 season, the existing players that will be replacing them need to watch the film of how each of the most impactful Aztec players contributed; how Wolfington found open teammates rushing to the net and how Balsama and Jones made their way through the opposing defense to score. 

SDSU has never beaten Stanford or Colorado and has only beaten USC once. So this offseason, even if they look at the film of how they played against all Pac-12 opponents, they really should focus on the team’s they have the poorest record against. Seeing what they need to do differently on the draw, how to be disciplined defensively so they are not giving up free positions and focus on clean clears and passes.

Until they have those things down, the Aztecs may struggle in the Pac-12 conference for a couple of years.