Lacrosse preview: Tribe gears up for new season, hopes for improvements on both sides of ball
Even the greatest of dynasties don’t last forever. The Beatles split up, the New England Patriots stopped winning Super Bowls and the Twinkie is nevermore.
Such is the lesson for William and Mary after the 2012 season. The Tribe, which had enjoyed several years of dominance within the Colonial Athletic Association, suddenly fell to the bottom of the conference with its first losing season in five years. A bevy of underclassmen and a new head coach struggled to earn victories and live up to the program’s storied recent history.
Head coach Brooke Ireland was hired just three weeks before the season opener, robbing the squad of valuable practice time.
“Last year was an interesting year because we didn’t have a coach for the fall, so when we came out for the first few games, we were literally just getting our feet under us,” senior defender Brett Hayes said.
With its disappointing 4-13 campaign behind them, the Tribe hopes that the growing pains are over and that 2013 serves as a reboot to an otherwise successful program.
The College returns seven of its top eight scorers from last season, most of them at attacker. Senior attacker Kyrstin Mackrides, one of the team’s three captains, returns after posting 32 goals and four assists last season as one of the College’s most dynamic offensive options.
Taelor Salmon, a speedy junior who blossomed last season, hopes to continue to grow after recording 31 goals and 11 assists last season. Sophomore attacker Kaliegh Noon was one of the bright spots for the Tribe last season. As a freshman, Noon came in and helped the College fill a scoring void by providing 20 goals and 14 assists last season.
Salmon believes that the College will played with a renewed life on offense this season.
“We are working on a lot of ball movement, not so much standing around, and we run a three-second offense, so … we just want to keep it moving to keep the defenders [offbalance],” Salmon said.
The midfielders will be anchored by a pair of experienced seniors. Senior midfielder Katie Stillwell, a second-team All-CAA selection in 2012, hopes to continue to be a dominating presence in the middle after tallying 12 goals, three assists, 20 ground balls and 21 ball controls. Stillwell is joined by senior Caitlin Murphy. Murphy, a consistent force for the College all season, was especially important in the Tribe’s season-ending victory over Hofstra by contributing two goals, an assist, three ground balls and a draw control.
Ireland is hopeful that her experienced defenders can help propel the Tribe to victories.
“The midfielders have been playing together for a long time,” Ireland said. “They know eachother, they know the plays, they are smart, they are disciplined.”
The College’s defense will be anchored by a mix of seniors and sophomores. Senior captain Brett Hayes and senior defender Hannah Clarke are the Tribe’s elder statesmen at defender. Hayes appeared in 15 games last season and recorded four ground balls and two turnovers. Clarke, meanwhile, earned three starts last season, and performed well in a reserve role as she notched 15 ground balls and 18 draw controls. Sophomores Maggie Bermingham and Allison Henry will look to capitalize on expanded roles this season.
At goalkeeper, the College returns a stable of experienced goalkeepers. Junior Colleen Nofi was awarded the start Wednesday against American after being a reserve goalie for most of last season. Nofi saw action in three games last season, including against Delaware, where she made a career-high seven saves. Senior Emily Geary and freshman Meredith Crizer could both see action between the pipes this season.
“Colleen Nofi has taken the lead and been the most consistent … but really we could use any of our goalies this year,” Ireland said. “They all have different styles of play and we might look to utilize all of them.”
The Tribe opened its season Wednesday with a 17-13 victory over American, and hopes that the positive vibes from their first game carry over the rest of the season.
“I think our attitude is different this year,” Hayes said. “We are hungrier and more ready for it.”