For the women’s lacrosse team, “Start Strong” has been the motto in the first few weeks of practices. The team begins the season with three tough matchups; two of the three are ranked in the top 20 nationwide.
When asked about how practices have been going in this cold Newport News winter, senior attack Meghan O’Reilly said she is happy with how the team has come together since the beginning of the year and added, “We’ve been practicing for two weeks and we are really feeling good.” Head Coach Lisa Valentine thought that the team “stepped up commitment and level of play in the fall.” Coach Valentine said that the team set a goal of going to the NCAA Tournament and that the first step in that is “starting strong.”
After only losing four seniors in the class of 2016, these girls have had their noses to the grindstone knowing that they have an opportunity to do something special and win a conference title, something that hasn’t happened since the team switched into the CAC O’Reilly’s freshman year. The team feels good after having an intense fall offseason which included scrimmaging two teams from Division I (Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University). The strong senior class has been complimented by a solid core of freshmen. This includes Mackenzie Regen (defense) and Sam Wettengel (midfield).
A unique aspect of Head Coach Valentine’s practice schedules are dance parties that sometimes occur before the ladies hit the field. Junior Attacker Sarah Culver was exuberant when asked about the pre-practice routine that has made its way to Facebook and other social media platforms. Coach Valentine says that the music that plays during practice and the dancing before practice is a nice buffer between a long day of classes, and a long afternoon of practice. Besides helping to get their energy up, it helps build the team camaraderie and spirit.
The team sets out for a season filled with opponents who will be coming for blood after last year. Last spring, CNU beat Catholic, a team who was in the top ten of Division III at the time, 9-8. This year, CNU plays Catholic over spring break in what is “going to be a really competitive game,” according to Coach Valentine.
Culver says that another team that they are excited for is St. Mary’s, who they beat 11-6 last year. Three other great CAC teams that will be butting heads with the Captains are Mary Washington, York and Salisbury. Culver says that they will take on this tough conference one game at a time and they will continue to “empower one another.”
Empowering one another has been a theme the team has tried to keep in mind as they come closer to their season opener. O’Reilly explained that it focuses on accountability and raising each other up. Coach Valentine said that she doesn’t want all the pressure to fall on seniors or on “playmakers.” Every player on the team should feel confident enough to step up when her name is called.
Valentine is excited for the season and wants everyone to come out to cheer them on as they tackle the W&L Generals. She said that she feels this is a very special senior group and she wants them to get everything they deserve out of their final season as Captains.