After failing to make the CAA tournament in two of the past three seasons, William and Mary has felt the sting of unrealized expectations. Although only a year removed from a disappointing 6-12 record with a 2-6 mark in the conference, the College feels that, with a renewed team dynamic and a restructured offense, it can overcome a tough schedule and fulfill its goal of succeeding in conference play.
Prominent returnees include senior midfielder Kelsey Nawalinski, with five goals and three assists last season, and senior defender Erica Eng, who tallied five goals and two assists last fall.
They will contribute to a unique team dynamic that includes a roster containing 10 seniors and seven freshmen.
With so many upperclassmen, Nawalinski says multiple seniors have quickly taken to the responsibility of being team leaders.
“We have 10 seniors, so the weight of the leadership is not on me,” Nawalinski said. “We are all stepping up to help out the freshmen.”
Hawthorne has been impressed with the resulting team morale so far.
“[The seniors] are delivering on a promise to see this thing through to the end,” Hawthorne said. “They have all found a way to contribute, and also bonded with the freshmen.”
Strong leadership will be needed to make up for the presence of junior midfielder, Leah Zamesnik, last year’s leading scorer who injured her knee during the spring. Although Zamesnik will miss much of the season, other players have accepted the challenge of filling her place in what Hawthorne hopes will be a quicker and more aggressive offense than in years past.
“We definitely have more speed, and I’d say more scoring power as well,” Hawthorne said. “We have so many options.”
Even the upperclassmen have taken notice of the increased offensive flexibility.
“This team has the ability to interchange positionally,” Nawalinski said. “No one plays just one position.”
The Tribe faces a tough schedule early, including trips to the defending national champion, and No. 1 ranked, North Carolina Tarheels and the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers. But, Hawthorne says, the players are not intimidated, and the goal remains the same.
“We want to be in the CAAs and we want to win the CAAs,” Hawthorne said. “But right now we’re just working on daily goals to make practices game-like. We want to keep [our] focus full time while we’re out here.”
Despite the impressive resumes of their opponents, the upperclassmen are enthusiastic about the tough slate.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Nawalinski said. “We’re excited to go down there, and I think we’ll do pretty well.”