The Syracuse women’s lacrosse team may be young, with 10 new freshman players on the squad this year, but the team’s youth does not deter their confidence.
In fact, head coach Gary Gait was clear in his belief that the team is ready for their season opener against Boston College on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Carrier Dome, even if nearly a third of his roster has no collegiate experience.
“We’re more prepared than we’ve ever been at this time of the year,” Gait said after a recent practice.
Last year, the Orange won a share of the Big East regular season title and ended its season at 10-8. This year, the squad returns seven starters, and much of Gait’s confidence stems from the team’s sound offense.
Returning for SU are midfielders Katie Webster and Sarah Holden, scoring a total of 32 goals last season. But perhaps the team's biggest return is its leading goal scorer from a year ago, junior attack and captain Michelle Tumolo, who earned 63 points a year ago, with 30 goals and 33 assists.
Tumolo spent the offseason training with the U.S. National Women’s Lacrosse team, working on adopting a more aggressive play style. She said that she plans on going to the goal more often this season, while still keeping her assists high.
“I want a lot of assists, because I want to get my teammates the ball,” Tumolo said. “But, I need to shoot more because I might hurt the offense.”
Not to be outdone, the rest of Gait’s offense looks primed for a stellar season. Webster and Holden finished last season tied for second on the team in goals scored. Feeling much more confident this year, Webster is excited to show off how she’s improved since last season.
One area Webster has worked on in the offseason is her tendency to go left at the net. After working on her stick skills and running a lot of wall ball drills, she feels like this will not be an issue in the future.
“Last year, everyone would always make fun of me because I’d always juke left but couldn’t shoot left,” she said.
Another option on offense is sophomore attack Alyssa Murray, who finished last season as the third leading scorer. She hopes to put up even better numbers this year by finishing her shots when they count, having spent much of the offseason working on controlling her focus.
Gait is also excited to have two young goalkeepers this year that can play off each other’s skills and support one another. Last year, Liz Hogan was in net for the Orange and she ended the season as SU’s all-time leader in saves and an All-American.
Still, Gait likes the dynamic of the two young keepers he currently has on the roster. Freshman Kelsey Richardson is skilled at blocking lower shots, while sophomore Alyssa Costantino aces higher shots. Between the two of them, Gait is confident the goal will be secure as he mixes and matches his goalkeepers based on the opposing team’s offensive style.
Overall, Gait said he expects his team to be ready for the start of the season. With 22 letter-winners returning, he has high hopes.
“This year, we’re bringing back plenty of experience. I think that’s a nice change,” Gait said at the SU lacrosse media day. “It’s more comforting knowing these players have played against these top teams. It’s a huge difference from last year. They’re confident, they have a little bit more swagger, and they are ready to go.”