The UMass Lowell women’s lacrosse team has its sights set on new goals, as the third year program looks to make its biggest leap entering 2017. Head Coach Carissa Medeiros is excited to see her squad build on a positive and productive fall campaign, as the River Hawks open the new season on Saturday, February 18 at Wicked Blue Field.
“All kinds of great things have happened in the offseason. We have two new coaches who are really helping us elevate the program by bringing a ton of legit Division I experience and I think our girls are taking to it really nicely,” said Medeiros. “Our effort is the best its ever been, our energy is the best its ever been and our skill level is sharpening up faster than I expected it to. We have a solid core group of kids that are really getting it and consistently practicing at a high level and high intensity while having a lot more fun.”
When it comes to team and season goals in year three, the squad is shifting its focus to the process rather than the outcome, keeping high levels of energy and effort and playing a complete 60 minute game.
“Last year we were too focused on the wins and losses and what could have been rather than the little steps it takes to win,” explained Medeiros. “Whether or not we complete our goals is how we will be able to measure our success.”
This season, senior Kristy Robertson, juniors Courtney Barrett and Shelia Nolan, and sophomore Jane Dudley have been named team captains. Alongside the foursome, Medeiros is also seeking leadership from her 10 upperclassmen, all who played in the inaugural season for the River Hawks.
“This is the first year we have had an entire class worth of upperclassmen and they are doing a great job of taking the leadership component seriously,” said Medeiros. “That is something we have lacked in the past, not because we didn’t have leaders, but because we haven’t had a class with years behind them. This year we have kids with leadership skills along with the actual number of years experience.”
The team welcomes eight newcomers for the upcoming campaign to round out the 29-person roster. Though the program is welcoming a large young class, Coach Medeiros’ returners have led by example.
“We’ve got a good core group of kids who are really showing what it takes to be competitive on the field every single day, and that has gotten us to the point where we are now quicker than we have in years past.”
With this season seeing its first full class of upperclassmen, Coach Medeiros feels the chemistry on and off the field her first recruiting class has built will provide an edge for the underdogs.
“I am really excited about having a solid junior class where some players have been starting and playing for three years solid,” remarked Medeiros. “That is a little different than what you will see at some other established programs where you have juniors who are just getting their opportunity to start for the first time. I think having a group of girls who have played a lot of minutes for a long time will pay off for us over the course of the season.”
UMass Lowell is returning 21 letterwinners, and the majority of their 2016 starters, including junior goalkeeper Courtney Barrett, who was ranked first in the nation in ground balls (76) and ground balls per game with (4.47), and fourth in saves per game (10.41). Her 177 saves this year ranks first in the conference, while her .452 save percentage was fifth among America East goalkeepers. Barrett led the River Hawks in ground balls and caused turnovers (15), in addition to setting a program record of 17 saves against UMBC on April 2.
Junior Taylor Sokol (Hopkington, Mass.) had a major hand in the River Hawks scoring, as the attack notched team highs in points and assists with 23 and eight, respectively. Sokol tied a program record last season when she posted five points (3g, 2a) in a single contest, while being one of six players to start in all 17 games.
Sophomore midfielder Kristina Keith (Exeter, N.H.) will look to contribute to the scoring again in 2017, after her six free position goals were tied for a team best with junior attack Kaylan DiModugno (Deer Park, N.Y.). The duo tallied 15 and 10 points respectively, while Keith’s 18 draw controls were a third best for the squad.
This spring’s slate, which features 17 contests, will once again be ranked among the toughest schedules of all young programs. The River Hawks are set to square off against 2016 NCAA Tournament team Stony Brook on April 29, in addition to 2015 tournament participants Bryant (3.29) and UAlbany (4.8).
“We are always trying to get as competitive of a schedule as we can. I am a firm believer in not being able to grow unless you play the best of the best, but we also recognize the importance of having games that are closer to our competition level,” said Medeiros.
Medeiros has arranged for her squad to battle against a handful of new opponents this spring, as the unit is slated to face challengers from four different leagues during the non-conference portion of 2017.
“Overall we have a good mix of really competitive Top 30 and Top 40 programs, some perennial teams that are fighting for NCAA spots, while playing some teams that are equal to the trajectory that we are on,” she concluded.
UMass Lowell will host eight games in front of River Hawk Nation, including a three-game home stand, featuring Quinnipiac (3.22), LIU Brooklyn and Bryant.