February 26, 2009

Young W. Lacrosse Wins in Opener

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The women’s lacrosse team took to the turf for the first time this season against Colgate yesterday. With the brisk night air blowing, there was some question whether the No. 16 Red would emerge tighter than how they left it last season: as the runner up in the Ivy League. The team had lost many of its starters, and some could argue the core of their arsenal, last season after graduating a class of seven seniors leaving only four for the upcoming season. The Red made a strong start, however, pulling out a hard fought victory against Colgate in front of the home crowd, 10-7.
“We’ve got a small group of seniors, for sure,” said coach Jenny Graap ’86. “But they’re important, they’re really important.”[img_assist|nid=35578|title=Pacemaker|desc=Senior Jessica Wiegand was integral to the Red’s season opening win over Colgate on Feb. 25.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Colgate (2-1, 0-0 Patriot), last year’s Patriot League champion, was undefeated going into yesterday’s game. Their two solid early victories showed that their mixed offensive strategy was working, but the Red was able to exploit its few holes and brought an enthusiasm that ultimately prevailed over the Raiders.
The Red, fresh to the field, has been practicing as a team since Feb. 1, and had been focusing on conditioning and sticking drills before its official first practice, according to Graap. The Red may not have played any games going into yesterday’s game, but it didn’t show, as the team consistently blew past the Raiders up and down the field.
“We have really been working on our conditioning in the off season, pushing ourselves to get that pure athleticism that can take you far during the season,” said senior co-captain Jess Wiegan.
Senior Kelly Hansen proved that a little conditioning could a long way after she broke away from three Colgate chasers in a breakaway down the field. Though the Red did not convert on the breakaway, the team’s athleticism showed that though while lacking in upper classmen, the Red does not lack in grit.
“We as a team try to compete at a higher level and push ourselves to outclass the other team with our athleticism,” Wiegan said. “Today we played well, but we could have been better.”
The Red broke out of the gate in a hurry, scoring two goals in quick succession in the first 10 minutes. The first goal of the season was knocked in by freshman Jessi Steinberg, who snuck around the goal and swept the ball into the net past senior goalie Sara Drexler.
It seemed fitting that the first goal was scored by a freshman for this young team. As 66 percent of the team are underclassmen, making the Red one of the youngest nationally ranked teams. The upperclassmen showed real leadership as well, posting solid efforts on attack and in the backfield.
“Today we really relied on the senior leadership,” Graap said. “Jess Wiegan, really stepped up. She controlled the tempo a bit, she was making defensive plays, putting the ball in the net on the attack. Frankly I think that we need that with some of the young players, we need to be able to rely on some our leaders to show us the way.”
After two early goals, the Red’s offense was quiet for some time, letting Colgate slip back into the game with a tricky goal by junior Brie Moran and a free position goal by freshman Courtney Miller.
To the detriment of the fading Red, the Raiders did a good job of controlling the pace and keeping the game close. In every important statistical category, both teams were tied. At the midpoint, the two teams headed to their locker rooms with the game deadlocked at 4-4, following a late goal by Miller. The Red’s two free position goals, compared to Colgate’s 1, was what held the team up through the first.
“We got a little more organized at half time, the defensive coaches made some adjustments at the half,” Graap said.
“We realized that our game needed to pick up if we wanted to win,” Wiegan said.
Despite its efforts to take back the momentum in the second half it was Colgate who drew blood first. Moran stormed the net and picked up an unassisted goal for the Raiders four minutes into the half. With the goal, the Raiders took their first lead of the game, 5-4. That lead lasted 41 seconds. The Red scored three goals in two minutes essentially taking the wind out of the Raider’s sails.
“That change in momentum between the first and second really was crucial to our win,” Wiegan said.
The last twenty minutes of the second half were spent mostly on the Colgate end of the field. Though the Red continued to run even with the Raiders statistically during the second half, its play eclipsed the Raiders in many ways.
The final numbers show the Red taking a nine shot buffer over Colgate, mostly due to much longer possessions in the second half.
“I really attribute our second half success to the upper classmen like Morgan Hale, Tissy O’Connor, and Kate Dewey,” Graap said. “The juniors really stepped up. Lindsay Kane did an outstanding job coming off the bench and really helping us out in the backfield. It triggers more confidence in the younger players, when the upperclassmen get out there.”
Graap commented on how yesterday’s win may have been a success, but it was was not what the team expects from itself at this point. This young team strives to be better as time goes on.
“We hope for everyone to see an emerging team that gets better as this season wears on,” Graap ’said
The team will meet a much harder foe in Rutgers this weekend, but the Red feels it is ready for the challenge.
“We are ready to take everything learned at Colgate and apply it against Rutgers,” Wiegan said. “We know we’ve got to push ourselves if we want to keep winning.”