Allegheny women’s lacrosse is seeking its first ever conference title as the team prepares for the upcoming 2017 season.
“This is my fourth season, and I feel like we’ve finally gotten to a place off the field and on the field where I want us to be,” said head coach Ashley Hughes.
The team, with seven first-year members and seven senior members, experienced a significant transition this year, one that highlighted the concentration of members in their first and final seasons.
The team has been preparing and bonding since the beginning of the fall semester, despite the absence of most juniors, who were studying abroad in fall 2016, according to Hughes.
Hughes said fall practices provided an environment for the team to come into the new season as a family and cultivate everyone’s skills.
“It was a really interesting balance between teaching — teaching to the freshmen — but also looking for that growth as well in our returning seniors,” Hughes said.
The team will get to harness preseason preparations unusually early, according to Hughes. Because of scheduling conflicts, the Gators will play their first conference game against Denison University on March 4, the second game of the season for Allegheny.
“It’s very early in the season, about three weeks earlier than we would ever see any other conference team,” Hughes said.
But this year’s schedule change presents Allegheny with a unique opportunity, Hughes said.
“I always try to find the silver lining in it. … Win or loss, I think it gives us a good opportunity to really assess where we are and then get to use some of those non-conference games that we have for the rest of March to work on some of those things and really prepare for the rest of the conference schedule,” Hughes said.
The team has already had some indication of where they stand based on scrimmage play at the University of Pittsburgh on Sunday, Feb. 12, according to attacker Alexa Maloney, ’17.
“From how we played on Sunday and just how we’ve been practicing, I think we’re going to be really competitive this year,” Maloney said.
Despite the loss of several seniors from the 2016 team, Maloney emphasized the team’s offensive cohesion and the strong efforts of underclassmen to fill important roles.
“We have some new motion sets this year that really work to incorporate everybody on the attack,” Maloney said.
Maloney, as well as goalie Kaelin Clogan, ’17, expressed a sense of confidence for the 2017 team to get closer to a championship win, and Hughes has challenged the team to make it there.
“I gave them the challenge of 13 and three as an overall goal this year. Last year we finished nine and nine, and I felt like a couple of those games that were close should have been ours — but we made some mental errors,” Hughes said.
Hughes said the team may seem young, considering the potential of many freshmen to see some playing time, but she expects the team to represent Allegheny as an experienced and organized group to achieve the 13–3 goal.
Clogan said the beginning of a new season with new players bring excitement.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how we pan out against our opponents because Coach [Hughes] always says we’re either going to be young or we’re going to be great,” Clogan said.
The Gators open the season at Thiel College on March 1 at 7 p.m.