With talented rookies, lacrosse has high hopes for season

Freshman midfielder Tessa Waters takes the draw in battle against Connecticut College on Wednesday, March 22. She scored a free position in the final 12 seconds. / Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

Last year, the Vassar College women’s lacrosse team finished with an overall record of 6-9 and a 2-7 finish in the Liberty League. The Brewers are forging ahead in their 2017 season with the hopes of improving upon last year’s results and earning a spot in the Liberty League playoffs.

The team graduated three impactful seniors after the 2016 season: Isabelle Goldstein, Paige Abramowitz and Kim Mulvehill. Goldstein earned All-Liberty League honors all four years on the team and finished her lacrosse career at Vassar with 233 career points, ranking second in career points in program history. She was also Vassar’s record holder for career assists. Nevertheless, Head Coach Judy Finerghty has replaced the gap left by those three seniors with six new freshmen.

“While their experience and work ethic are missed, the team has already filled those spots on the field with quality players,” explained Coach Finerghty.

“The freshmen class has been nothing less than an absolute joy to get to know not only as players but as people,” added senior captain Brittany Botticelli. “They really set the tone of our season by working as hard as they do and making immediate impacts on both the attacking and defensive end.”

Senior attacker Julia Trudell joins Botticelli as team captain, both of whom are serving as captains for the second consecutive season. The senior class is rounded out by defender Sydney Spadinger, attacker Phoebe Hankins and defender Darby Stahl. Botticelli credited Trudell, Hankins, Spadinger and Stahl all as players who had a big impact in 2016 and who she expects to be big contributors again this season.

Trudell was influential in the attack last year, scoring 29 goals and making 14 assists, and Botticelli expects both her and Hankins to be strong mentors for the team’s young attack. Meanwhile, Spadinger and Stahl were, and continue to be, leaders on defense.

“On the defensive end, Darby Stahl and Sydney Spadinger have really stepped up even more from last year,” said Botticelli. “They are strong defenders that we can always rely on to not only get the job done, but also help the younger girls get the hang of things.”

In addition to her fellow seniors, Botticelli pointed to junior Storm Sideleau as a big contributor for the Brewers this season. Last season, Sideleau scored a total of 37 goals, tying for the team lead and finished with 41 points overall.

Joining the field this season alongside these veterans are six freshmen, consisting of two midfielders, two defenders and two attackers. The team’s youngest class has already made a noticeable impact.

Midfielder Tessa Waters is currently leading the team in points with 15 goals and 4 assists. Due to her strong performances, Waters was awarded Liberty League Rookie of the Week for the week of Mar. 19.

The Brewers opened their 2017 season against Drew University on Mar. 3, losing 13-15. Despite the loss, the game showcased contributions from many different members of the team. Sideleau notched four goals, while freshman attacker Kelly Pushie scored three. Botticelli and sophomore midfielder Fiona MacLeod also added to the scoreboard, Botticelli with two goals and MacLeod with one goal and one assist. The remaining goals came from Hankins, Trudell and junior midfielder Olivia O’Loughlin.

Since the initial defeat, the team has lost two other games and won three. The women lost to Stevenson University on Mar. 12 and to Fairleigh Dickinson University – Florham Campus on Mar. 24. Their victories came against University of New England on Mar. 14, Fitchburg State University on Mar. 16 and Connecticut College on Mar. 22.

Waters received her Rookie of the Week accolade following the Connecticut College game, in which she scored the game-winning goal from a free-position shot with only 21 seconds left on the clock.

The games against Stevenson, University of New England and Fitchburg were all played in Florida as part of a spring break training trip. The trip was not only good practice for the team, but also a helpful opportunity to pinpoint areas of play that needs improvement going forward.

“The spring training trip is always a critical point in the team’s development,” stated Coach Finerghty. “The Stevenson game in particular revealed some areas of play that needed work, specifically our transition game. Other short term goals are to continue refining our defensive chemistry so that each person understands and performs their 1 v 1 positioning and helps slide rotations and to further develop the speed and effectiveness of our offensive motions.”

However, the training trip also highlighted some of the team’s strengths, one being its many talented and versatile players. “Another aspect of play that became apparent [in Florida] was that we have many players that can contribute with depth at attack, midfield and defense,” Finerghty noted.

In addition to having specific standout performers on the field, the team smiles upon overall team feats. “Our team shooting percentage, goalie save percentages and transition defense have improved in the past two weeks,” commented Coach Finerghty.

As the team approaches conference play, the goal is to secure a higher standing in the Liberty League than they did last year, and to secure a spot in the playoffs. With these long term goals in mind, the Brewers are focusing on improvements that are important for winning big games down the line as well as acknowledging their progress along the way.

Recent wins have also served as confidence boosters for the Brewers. The win against Connecticut College, in particular, was encouraging because it was the program’s first ever win against a New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) team. “This proved that we can compete at a high level,” said Coach Finerghty in reference to the victory.

The team’s nonconference stretch comes to an end as the Brewers head into their Liberty League double-header this weekend. The squad will first take on Union on Friday, Mar. 31, followed by a match against William Smith on Saturday, April 1.

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