Seniors look to future and now

As seniors wind down their tenure at GW, many are overwhelmed by the prospect of entering the working world or continuing education in the year to come. There is a feverish crunch to polish off resumes, complete applications, make connections and find jobs. The closing weeks of what may be the greatest four years of their lives is at times filled with anxiety; figuring out a life plan is a daunting task for a twentysomething.

Lauren Bower, Annie Howley and Colleen Schmidt wish their final weeks were that simple.

They need to think about their future and leading a Division I lacrosse team that is faced with increasing expectations and newfound national esteem.

The seniors typically spend 15 hours per week practicing and playing games – the same amount of time some students allocate to jobs, internships and extracurricular activities – plus the additional time it takes to travel to and from road games. Those are 15 hours that are not being devoted to establishing a future; they’re hours for enhancing the present.

“I’ve loved lacrosse my whole life,” Howley said after Monday’s practice. “It was basically the only sport I really ever cared about, and I just couldn’t ever picture myself not playing.”

“GW was a really good fit for me, both athletically and academically,” Bower said, sitting beside Howley. “I wanted to come to this city.”

“I knew I wanted to play a sport in college as well,” Schmidt said. “Also, I really liked the girls on the team on my recruiting trip.”

Bower and Schmidt, who have played at GW since their freshman year in 2003, had positive first impressions of GW after spending a weekend with the team as high school seniors on their recruiting trips.

Four years later, the two players have critical roles on the team. Schmidt, an attacker, is third on the team in goals and points, while Bower, a midfielder, does the team’s dirty work and has caused a turnover in the last four games.

“I’m around the ball a lot,” Bower said, who has taken a stick to the eye and mouth this year and sat out all of her junior year after tearing her right ACL. “It just comes with the territory of being a midfielder and being in the action. When you run into someone full speed, sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes I’m all gas, no brake.”

Howley, a fifth-year senior attacker, transferred to GW after two seasons at the University of Maryland. Howley admitted that partying occupied too much of her time at Maryland. She also conceded she didn’t get the playing time that she wanted. GW presented her with the opportunity to increase her focus on academics and have more playing time.

“I didn’t know until the end of July (2004 that I would be transferring to GW),” Howley said, who also considered the University of Oregon.

The lacrosse program is still young, born in 2002, the year before the class of 2006’s freshman year. The former club sport has improved each of its first four years, boosting its win total from four in 2002 to 13 last season, including an Atlantic 10 Tournament berth.

“When we were freshmen, everyone used to fall back on the fact that we were a new team,” Bower said. “As the years have gone on, there’s really not that excuse anymore. Now we’re an established program. The attitude has changed.”

Nine seniors graduated in 2005, leaving this year’s three seniors at the helm of an inexperienced team. Such a drastic turnover has given the Colonials an arduous challenge.

“We had nine senior girls who played together since their freshman year,” Schmidt said. “We’re a brand-new team. It’s a totally different team from last year or any of the other years.”

The Colonials stand at 5-8, including one win in three games in A-10 play. With four games remaining in its conference schedule, the squad must play its best lacrosse to make the A-10 Tournament, to be held May 5-7 at the Mount Vernon Athletic Complex.

“We have to (leave) this weekend winning one game,” Schmidt said with determination, anticipating this Friday’s matchup at St. Bonaventure and Sunday’s contest at Duquesne.

“If we win two games this weekend we’d be in really good shape,” Bower chimed in.

The seniors understand what’s at stake as well as anyone on the team. Their experience has helped them spot the chinks in their armor that have to be patched up.

In practice, “we’ve gone back to the basics,” Howley said. “I hate to say it … but we’ve gone back to fundamentals. That’s the difference between this year and last year (when we won 13 games). We’ve had to teach seven more starters this year how to hold the ball when we need to keep possession, or when to shoot the ball. It comes down to discipline; a good team knows how to win.”

“We’re a young team and running-wise you get tired,” Schmidt said, candidly. “We don’t have the depth (that we used to have).”

They see a bright future for the team. It has the potential to grow into a perennial A-10 Tournament team. The incoming freshman class is large and talented, the seniors said.

As they leave their fingerprints on GW, the three hope to bring the first A-10 title in school history to GW. As hosts of the tournament, they wouldn’t want it any other way.

“There’s nothing better than going to the tournament on your home field,” said Schmidt, with a smile. Like the other 2,000 seniors, Bower, Howley and Schmidt will graduate GW in May. But before they move ahead, they just hope to leave a little bit of their legacy behind.

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