After a season full of ups and downs last year, lacrosse is hoping to show off its improvement this spring with a winning record.
The Colonials kicked last season off on a high note winning the first two games of the season for the first time in program history.
GW entered its Atlantic 10 schedule with a 7–1 record under its belt, but the tides turned once conference competition rolled around. The Colonials stumbled in A-10 play, closing out the season on a six-game losing streak and missing the A-10 Championship for the fifth season in a row with a 2–7 record in conference play.
Despite the losing conference record, the Colonials ended the year 9–8 overall – the program’s fifth-best record – but head coach Tracy Coyne said the team’s skid in A-10 play has motivated the Colonials to outperform themselves this season.
“I think how we competed in the A-10 last year was bitterly disappointing,” Coyne said. “I think we carry that with us in terms of being the motivating factor for what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Coyne said making the A-10 Championship is “100 percent” the team’s focus this season, and the early wins last season may have prevented the Colonials from continuously focusing on improving their areas of growth.
“When we had that success in the nonconference, it gave us a lot of confidence, but in some ways we glossed over some of our shortcomings because when you’re winning a lot, you can gloss over things you need to improve on,” Coyne said. “And obviously I take responsibility for that.”
One area the Colonials are already ahead on this year is fitness, which Coyne said was holding the team back last year. Coyne said 19 players passed the fitness test in the winter compared to four players at the same time last season.
“I think that’s a key element of what was missing,” Coyne said. “Because if you’re constantly trying to work on your fitness, it’s hard to raise the overall play, you can’t play the fast pace if you’re not fit so because we’re fitter, we’re able to do more things in practice.”
The Colonials bring back a strong core of players from last season, including young standouts like sophomore goalkeeper Jenna Oler, who started in the cage for the Colonials and grabbed a single-season program record of 210 saves as a rookie, and sophomore attacker Ioanna Mantzouratos, who dished out a team-high 18 assists while racking up 23 goals in 16 starts as a freshman.
With 10 juniors, 10 sophomores and nine freshmen on the roster, the Colonials are without a senior on the team but a majority of the team’s starters are returning to the pitch. Coyne said there are enough players who have “experienced big moments that matter” in games to help lead the team.
Junior defender Caroline Kiernan was unanimously voted team captain this season, the first time in Coyne’s stint at GW that every player voted for the same person to be their leader, she said.
“Our goal is to establish ourselves as a winning program and be a top contender in the A-10, and since the juniors came into the program, I think the focus has been that push,” Coyne said.
Junior midfielder Katie Quinn said some of the team’s rookies are already showing the potential for a strong season ahead.
“This game is all about 50/50 balls and we have really fast freshmen who are able to grit those ones out so I know there’s a couple that are on our radar,” Quinn said.
Quinn notched 28 goals and dished out 14 assists in 17 starts in the midfield last season for GW.
GW’s top two scorers from last season – then-senior attackers Camaryn Kerns and Jocelyn Donohue – combined for 86 of the Colonials’ 201 goals on the season.
Coyne said the team has “big shoes to fill” on offense, but instead of relying on multiple goals from a few individual players, the team’s offense will rely on a deeper scoring roster.
Coyne tabbed players like Mantzouratos and junior attackers Morgan McDonnell, Christine Weber and Caitlin Concannon to step up for the Colonials on the offensive side of the ball.
“We definitely have much more dynamic offense sets this year,” Quinn said. “Cam and Jocelyn were awesome because they could be good for three-plus goals a game but now there are going to be goals scored from many different players, not just two or three.”
The Colonials kick off their season at 1 p.m. Saturday against Longwood in Farmville, Va.
Roman Bobek contributed reporting.