The women’s lacrosse team made huge progress last year when it made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, despite losing 17-8 in a round at Franklin and Marshall College. Notwithstanding the defeat, it was the first time since 2011 that the program had made the NCAA tournament, a considerable improvement over recent seasons when the Jumbos ended with losses in the NESCAC quarterfinals. Tufts also broke the streak of bowing out of the NESCAC postseason tournament in the first round, although the team ended up narrowly losing to Trinity in the NESCAC semifinals 8-7 in overtime.
The Jumbos finished last season with a 12-7 record overall and were 6-4 in conference play against a slate of NESCAC rivals. The team looks to continue that trend of improvement with an even more successful season this year, which starts with its season opener against Castleton on Monday night.
“We’ve done our best to try and improve every aspect of our game a little bit,” coach Courtney Farrell said. “We graduated some phenomenal seniors last year that we’d obviously miss, but we also have a great group of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors who’ve done a phenomenal job leading this group in the off-season. [We] are ready to step on the field this year to see what we can do in terms of building on and maintaining the level of success.”
Reflecting on last year, senior tri-captain midfielder Brigid Bowser believes that the experience they received at the NCAA tournament was a good stepping stone for success.
“[No one in the current program] has ever been to Sweet 16 before, and that’s the furthest the program in recent years has made it that far, so I think we were new to the whole playoff game,” Bowser said. “This year we’ve got that experience; just that is huge for us this year.”
Still, this year’s squad is fairly young with 13 new first-years in the program. In fact, the team returns just three seniors this year: Bowser and fellow senior tri-captains, defender Jaymi Cohen and attacker Caroline Ross. Farrell, however, believes that these seniors play an integral role in leading the team.
“We have three incredibly talented seniors, with their ability on the field — and equally if not more — as talented leaders,” Farrell said. “We are incredibly lucky to have those three leading the 2016 team. They’ve done a really great job with bringing along a big freshman class, and that would pay dividends.”
The team has also been energized by its first-year players, who add a talent and competitive nature to the roster.
“I’m very excited because I think our first-years have so much talent, and it’s about just keep building their confidence and making sure they know that they’re going to be out there with us in games,” Cohen said. “We have to keep encouraging them to go hard or take the risks they’re taking, and I think they’re honestly ready for it because there are so many of them, they’re competitive and they fit right in, and we just got to make sure their confidence is where it should be.”
Ross, who scored an average of 10.79 goals last season, explained that the team has been working on its offense as part of an overall gradual improvement strategy.
“We really want to play fast, and we’ve been focusing on that preseason, ultimately with the goal of winning NESCACs,” Ross said. “We want to utilize the transition, and we’ve just been playing a lot of full-field right off the draw, getting the ball down the field and score quick goals. We can score more goals mostly from the transition and pushing the pace a bit more this year.”
It has been important for the Jumbos this year to continue enhancing their team cohesiveness and spirit, as well as incorporating the new first-years quickly into the team.
“Since day one, I think we’ve taken them under our wing and made sure they feel part of the team even before we started dealing with the coaches, and I think you can really see the chemistry in everything we do — we go to dinner together, [we go] to the library together and throughout all of preseason we have fitness, fundamental and teammate goals,” Cohen said. “Those teammate goals are always to get meals together to check in with each other — little things like that make our team chemistry that much stronger.”
Cohen believes that creating close teammate relationships will be a key asset for the team going forward this year.
“Team chemistry has been something our team really thrives on, and that’s a huge asset for the team, and our coaching staff is really invested in the program, going over and beyond with everything,” Cohen said. “I think just having that as our foundation every day going to practice: everyone looking forward to it and working hard towards the same goals.”
The team will start off with a series of four home games beginning Monday night against Castleton. The team then hosts MIT on Wednesday before its first weekend home game against Middlebury on Saturday. This home stand will end on March 16 against Cortland State.
“We’re trying to prepare ourselves to face any situation we might face in a game, so practices are just like how our game would be on Monday,” Bowser said. “The team energy is high, and we’re looking to translate off the field chemistry to on the field. We’re all great friends, and that’s only a bonus when we play together.”
Early last season, the Jumbos were 6-2 at home, winning three of their four games. The team got off to a hot 4-0 start last year, but it’s taking things slowly as this season kicks off.
“We’re going to take each game at a time,” Cohen said. “Our biggest game is always the next one, and so we’ve to take them one at a time. It’s a goal to be 4-0, but each game is a new game, and we have to prove it out on the field.”
The three captains are all very excited for the season to start, a sentiment reflected among the coaching staff.
“I think our goal for this season is pretty simple: to get a little bit better every day and sort of see where that leads us,” Farrell said. “I think our entire coaching staff are really excited for the potential of this group and the 2016 season, and our focus right now is to get better every day to build on this success and build on getting even better.”
For Ross and the other seniors, it would be a memorable conclusion to end their college careers with a NESCAC title.
“It’d be great — we’ve been playing hard for over three years, and we really do want to see us win NESCACs and beyond — Trinity is the only team we’ve not beaten yet, and we want to take care of that and the rest of our NESCAC opponents,” Ross said. “I’m so excited to start games, to be honest. I’ve been waiting for this since August, and I’m just excited to see this team play together against a different opponent because we’ve got so much potential in this team; we have a young team and so much talent and we really mesh well together — so it’s fun to play together.”