Start of CAA play provides intriguing teams to follow

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JAMIE HOLT / THE FLAT HAT

As fans of William and Mary sports, watching March Madness can be a disappointing time. However, there are several different spring sports that are getting into the thick of their regular season schedules around this time of the year. In particular, lacrosse and baseball should be exciting teams to follow this spring for several different reasons. Both teams have had relatively successful non-conference schedules and should be competitive in Colonial Athletic Association play. However, the extent to which these teams have strong seasons is still to be determined by their performances in CAA play, which provides a level of intrigue and excitement around two programs that have not been this strong over the past couple of seasons.

Last season, the College’s lacrosse team ended the 2018 campaign on an eight-game losing streak, leading to a 4-12 record after a .500 start to the season after the first eight games. Furthermore, the Tribe went 0-5 in conference play and did not qualify for the CAA tournament.

In 2019, the College has already surpassed its win total from the previous season. As of Sunday afternoon, the Tribe was 5-4 after an overtime loss on the road at Coastal Carolina. On April 5, the Tribe will start CAA play on the road against Hofstra. The College is certainly not a favorite to win the CAA, but the Tribe’s performance so far this season indicates that it has a chance to rack up a couple of wins and possibly sneak into the CAA semifinals.

Additionally, the College is likely to improve over the next couple of seasons. The Tribe is stacked with young underclassman talent, including freshmen midfielders Belle Martire and Grace Ahonen and sophomore attacker Sophie Kopec. Junior midfielder Meredith Hughes and junior goalkeeper Elsa Rall will also be back for the 2020 season. Rall has won defensive player of the week in the CAA once this season and Martire has won back-to-back rookie of the week awards in the CAA. Martire has scored a team-high 25 goals this season and Rall has maintained a 48 percent save percentage through nine games. The lacrosse team provides the opportunity to watch a team potentially grow into a CAA powerhouse over the next couple of years, as well as to enjoy a competitive squad this season, as well.

The Tribe has home games in the CAA against Drexel, Delaware and Elon Apr. 7, 14 and 26 respectively. The lacrosse team plays its home games at Martin Family Stadium on Ironbound Road, located close to both campus and a Williamsburg Area Transit Authority Trolley stop.

Last season, the College’s baseball team had an average non-conference record, before completely collapsing during its CAA slate. The Tribe finished with a 15-39 record, including a 3-21 mark in conference play. The College also finished the season on a 16-game losing streak. This was just two years removed from the College’s run to the regional championship series in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament after eliminating defending national champion and regional host, Virginia. The Tribe also won the CAA championship in 2016.

This year, the Tribe has matched last season’s win total through 21 games. The College is 15-6, including losing two out of three to open CAA play at home against Northeastern. The Tribe concluded that series on Sunday with a 15-4 rout of the Huskies to bounce back after two straight losses. Despite some struggles against the Huskies, the College appears to have turned a corner and should be fairly competitive in CAA play and set up for a return to the upper echelon of the conference in the next couple of years.

In non-conference play this year, the College is 14-4 and had a nine-game winning at one point. The Tribe also picked up marquee wins against two different Power Five conference programs. The College routed Virginia 9-3 and also won one game in a three-game series with West Virginia. Senior catcher Hunter Smith has led the way for the College offensively with a .346 batting average, including seven home runs and 24 runs batted in. Freshman infielder Hunter Hart and sophomore infielder Matt McDermott have also been solid at the plate and in the field, showing that the Tribe will have offensive star power even when Smith and senior infielder Zach Pearson graduate after this season. On the mound, freshman pitcher Zach Tsakounis is 3-0 with a 1.84 earned run average in just under 30 innings pitched this season. While the Tribe is unlikely to go from worst to first in the CAA in 2019, a strong start to the season indicates that the College will be an exciting team to watch over the next couple of months and that head coach Brian Murphy has the Tribe back on track to return to success.

The baseball team’s home games are played at Plumeri Park, which is also on Ironbound Road at the same location as Martin Family Stadium. The College has home series in the CAA against James Madison, Elon and Charleston. Those series will take place April 12-14, April 19-21 and May 3-5, respectively.

While these are the two sports that I have highlighted in this article, there are also several other spring sports that should be interesting to follow and would provide great opportunities to get out and support the Tribe during the spring sports season. Other teams playing this spring are the men’s and women’s tennis, track and field and golf teams. Despite the end of basketball season at William and Mary, there are several enticing opportunities to get out and support the Tribe this spring.