With the spring sports season quickly approaching, both the Union Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse Teams look to build off of great 2015 campaigns.
The Dutchmen will open the season ranked twelfth in Division III after going 14-5 last year, while the Dutchwomen were ranked twentieth in the preseason polls after a 13-4 overall record last season.
The preseason rankings bring extra attention to both programs and are a testament to the success they’ve both worked for over the past few years.
However, as much as the rankings give confidence to the players on both teams, neither Paul Wehrum, head coach of the men’s team, or Abigail Jackson, head coach of the women’s team, will let the success get to their teams’ heads.
On being ranked twelfth in the preseason polls, Wehrum commented, “The poll I’m worried about is the one at the very end of the year.”
Similarly, Jackson didn’t put much stock in the excitement around the preseason poll stating, “We won’t win games by being ranked, we’ll win games because we’re more prepared than the other team.”
For the Dutchmen, it will be a combination of continued dominance at the faceoff, strong play in goal and elite play from the wingers and short-stick defensive midfielders that should lead them back to the top tier of the Liberty League.
Coming off of a season where they graduated four All-Americans, this will not be an easy task.
Yet, Wehrum is confident the men’s team can return to their elite level of play from last year. He remarked, “What you say at good programs is that you reload, not rebuild and that’s what we feel that we’re doing.”
Last year, the Dutchmen led the league in face-offs, were second in both goals and assists and were held together by very strong defensive play.
At the top of the Liberty League, however, stands RIT, a team ranked third in the nation and has bested Union three times last year alone. Wehrum and Derek Witheford ’11, a former Union lacrosse standout and current assistant head coach, can certainly respect RIT’s position at the top of the league, but both are looking to focus on the rest of the teams in the Liberty League, debatably the strongest league in Division III.
As for RIT, Witheford says, “We’re getting more familiar with their system, but until we beat them nothing is going to change.”
On the women’s side, a balanced team from top to bottom will be the new look this year. Jackson sees this team as one with a dynamic offense, a stand-out defense and total confidence in goal.
Maggie Comiskey ’16, last year’s leader in points, returns for another season, yet Jackson commented, “We won’t be putting the lead in one person.”
This will be the focus of the women’s team this year, as they look to be more balanced and dynamic.
The Dutchwomen will look to return to their level of play from last year, where they were first in the Liberty League in goals scored, second in goals against and third amongst caused turnovers, all of which brought them to an undefeated record in the league.
According to Jackson, if they are able to cause turnovers, get some more possessions and dictate the play, it would not be surprising to see the Dutchwomen at the top of the Liberty League once again.
Looking to the future, both teams should see great success and, hopefully, will enjoy appearances at the NCAA tournament.
Both coaches look to the Liberty League playoffs as goals for the postseason, and as coach in the post-season. Regarding this, Jackson said, “Experience will give us the potential to get back there.”
However, neither coach would go as far as to guarantee post-season success this coming year. Wehrum added, “I don’t guarantee that I’ll make it out of that door in ten minutes.”
On the contrary, Jackson did at least guarantee, in her words, the fittest team in the conference.
Yet, as much as the coaches hope to prevent jinxing any future success, big things should be expected from both teams headed into the 2016 season.
Both teams are set to open their seasons at home, with the women playing Buffalo State on Mar. 1, and the men opening play against nineteenth-ranked Endicott on March 2.