In only her second season at the helm of the women’s lacrosse program, Head Coach Amanda Belichick has already brought a strong sense of pride and a winning mentality to the team. Despite playing to a record of 0-10 in the conference last year, the squad lost 7 of the 10 by just four points or fewer, three of which were one-goal differences.
“I think coming out of last season we really made a lot of progress, and we’re definitely continuing to build as a program and as a team,” Belichick said. “We’re hoping to surprise people and get some wins under our belt. We’re switching gears a lot and really focusing on our offense from a team perspective, so that’s been important to us. We’re hoping to score some goals and get some points on the field.”
Belichick feels that with an added year of experience, the team can improve in late-game scenarios and turn last year’s losses into this season’s victories.
“We were really young last year, so I think the maturity of our offense is going to be important,” Belichick said. “We have most of our offense coming back, which is exciting. I think the maturity of our players will be a big key in our success on the field this season.”
The team will bring back six of its top seven scorers, including Meredith Smith ’17 with 21 points and Co-Captain Leah Sherman ’15 with 19. Sixteen current letterwinners will make up the 2015 roster on a team mostly comprised of sophomores and juniors, but the Cards will be led by two seniors, Sherman and Co-Captain Katie Binswanger ’15.
“My high school coach said ‘Those who have the will to win cannot be beaten,’ and that is how I approach each game,” Binswanger wrote in an email to The Argus. “We have an incredibly strong-willed, talented and determined group of players who are ready to fight and compete everyday. This program has taken great strides and I am optimistic about this season and the future of Wesleyan lacrosse. Our focus this year is to execute plays and build a strong defense, with goals of winning the Little Three Tournament and making it into the NESCAC playoffs. I started my Wesleyan lacrosse career on the sidelines, but that has never stopped me from persevering and pushing myself mentally and physically each and everyday. I am incredibly honored and proud to be leading the 2015 women’s lacrosse team, and we are ready to win.”
Binswanger spoke to the team chemistry in addition to the added experience as an indicator for future success.
“Our team has tremendous chemistry this year,” Binswanger wrote. “Returning players have worked extremely hard to get in shape and better their skills in the off-season, and have done a great job of leading by example for our BOMB freshman class. We could not be more excited about what we are seeing at practice and in drills: our hard work is definitely paying off. The team is smaller this year, so it is essential that we support one another and continue to learn more about each other’s style of play. We have a great time together on and off the field, and are looking to become serious contenders in the NESCAC.”
Belichick also had some positive thoughts about the development and success of the first-year class.
“Right now, I think they’re doing a great job getting into the system and doing a great job learning,” Belichick said. “I think the exciting thing about the team is that we don’t know where anything is going to come from, but right now the first-years are doing a great job.”
The team will open up its season this Saturday, Feb. 28, at noon in Clinton, New York, against Hamilton. The team struggled on the road last season and was outscored 49-31 in five NESCAC contests away from Smith Field, which was named in 2006 after generous benefactor Warren “Renney” Smith ’78 and his wife.
“We only have two overnights this season, and a lot of the trips are local, but I think being in my second year here, and having the team for another year, everyone is just a little bit more comfortable and everyone knows what to expect,” Belichick said.
Last season’s matchup against the Continentals ended in a close 8-7 defeat for the Cardinals in Middletown. Tied 3-3 at the intermission and 4-4 in the second half, Hamilton made a run and scored three times in a row. The Birds would not give in, mustering three goals to even the score at seven, the last one coming just before the 12-minute mark. Unfortunately, the Continentals converted with just under six minutes remaining, and it was too much for Wesleyan to overcome.
Goalie Nina Labovich ’16 made eight saves, and almost half of the team’s goals were scored by returning players.
“We bring back a lot of our defense, including our goalie and our core defenders, which is exciting, so our defensive core is pretty similar to what it was last year,” Belichick said. “That’s definitely one of our strengths, and we’re looking to build on our progress this season.”
Binswanger is optimistic for the season and cannot wait to get on the field and start playing in real games.
“The team is determined and has so much heart,” she said. “Everyone wants to win and we know we are working together and are headed in the right direction. I think one of the biggest improvements coming into the season is our attack, which now has a year more of experience and shows much more confidence moving the ball around and executing plays. With Amanda [Belichick]’s leadership and the support of our terrific coaching staff, the program is definitely headed in a positive direction.”
Belichick echoed the captain’s statement and expects her team to be a must-watch event for the students on the weekend, citing a lot of goals mixed in with some solid, structured defense and goaltending.
“I’m excited,” Belichick said. “Last year we made a lot of progress. We really closed the gap from a scoring standpoint, and this season we’re focusing on the attack, working on scoring, and its going to be really, really exciting thing to watch how the team plays.