By Shelby Townsend
Head Coach Meghan McNamara and the women’s lacrosse team hopes to combine new talent with the experience of veteran players to attain the ultimate goal of another national title.
The Pioneers have captured the national title four times since the year 2001, including two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013. Last year, the Pioneers ended their season as East Coast Conference Champions with an overall record of 17-4, but a loss to the second ranked Le Moyne Dolphins eliminated them from the National Championship. Coach McNamara said the end of last season “left us hungry for more and determined.”
Junior goalkeeper Olivia Kirk, who received many accolades last year including ECC Goalkeeper of the Year and IWLCA All-American First Team, is looking forward to what this season has in store for her team. “We have a very talented group of girls,” Kirk explained. “The team goal for the year is to put 100 percent into everything we do in hopes of it leading up to a national championship.”
This year’s team welcomed 14 newcomers, which makes up 50 percent of the team. Coach McNamara described her team as having “great energy and drive” and being very close knit.
“Our upperclassmen are very supportive of the younger players that keep coming in because they were them once,” McNamara explained.
Senior defensive player, Brianna Gibbons, is one of those upperclassmen who is helping out with the new players, and she is confident in her team’s ability to win this year. “We definitely have a young team, but I think it’s worked out in our favor,” Gibbons explained. “It has been a seamless transition with the freshmen.”
The Pioneers are taking advantage of this uncharacteristically warm January weather as they start their preseason training, which includes practicing six days a week for about six weeks. This first week is used to “get back into the swing of things” as players return from the holiday break, and many players look to return to the field after recovering from previous injuries.
According to McNamara, gaining confidence and taking it day by day will be key in reaching success this year. She said that communication and encouragement are crucial in developing the confidence her team needs to reach their full potential.
“It’s about them understanding the game and enjoying it,” McNamara explained.
The Pioneers will return to the field for a scrimmage match on Feb. 11 against Division 1 program Sacred Heart, but they will play their first regular season game at home against Pace University on Feb. 25. Kaitlin Gaghan, a three-year member of the Pioneer lacrosse team, will return to Bethpage Credit Union Stadium for the first time since graduating in 2016 as an assistant coach for Pace University. McNamara is excited for Gaghan to return to what used to be her home turf adding, “it’s amazing to have our alumni coaching collegiately.”
McNamara said the first game is an important one because “it’s the rst opportunity to see who we really are, how we compete, and where we stand.” Additional goals for the season include developing the team, keeping focused on what they can control and taking it day-by-day and one step at a time.