Lacrosse adapts to new head coach as majority of roster returns

Media Credit: Arielle Bader | Senior Photo Editor

Jennifer Ulehla has led the lacrosse team since June with a focus on building up players' confidence.

Lacrosse boasted a nearly identical roster to last year’s squad when the season kicked off Feb. 8, but the program reset its coaching staff in preparation for the 2020 season.

The Colonials (0-5) have dropped their first five contests of the season, getting outscored 80–49 across the board. Head coach Jennifer Ulehla, who joined the program in June after former head coach Tracy Coyne resigned last year, said she wasn’t going to “focus on the wins” during the nonconference schedule and tested her team with a range of opponents.

“You want to throw them as much as you possibly can, a bunch of different levels and see how you come out,” Ulehla said. “Every single game you’re analyzing something different.”

Despite not recording a win in its first five games for the first time in three seasons, Ulehla said she has emphasized building the players’ confidence and getting them in the mindset of competition.

“We stay consistent with our message and try to get them to compete hard and practice every day,” Ulehla said. “This is all about learning how to compete, it’s not about whether or not we have the talent, it’s about, ‘How do you compete? How do you get out there on the very first whistle and give them everything you have?’”

Ulehla said her coaching style has been an adjustment for the Colonials because her offensive system relies less on set plays and more on players’ ability to analyze and break down defenses in real time.

“They have to understand the game as opposed to me just saying ‘You go here, you go here, you go here’ and then the ball goes in the net,” Ulehla said. “It doesn’t work that way because you can have that plan, but when you get against a team that takes you out of your plan, you’ve got to be able to recognize it and adapt.”

While the Colonials may have a new head coach on the sidelines, their playing lineup looks almost identical from last year. Every player from the 2019 squad was eligible to return this season, giving the team greater cohesion but presenting new challenges to the coaching staff, who need to impart their methods onto a tight-knit group.

“It’s a new coaching staff, it’s a learning process and a learning curve for not only players but also for the coaches,” junior attacker Ioanna Mantzouratos said. “I think every game, every practice, we’re learning more about ourselves, more about the coaches going into every game.”

The loss of goalkeeper Jenna Oler marked the only member of the 2019 squad to not return to the field this year. Oler, who is now at Mount St. Mary’s, started 16 games last year, leaving the Colonials with little experience between the pipes.

Junior goalkeeper Alexa Solomon saw action in seven matches over the first two years of her collegiate career, while sophomore goalkeeper Megan Patrick did not see the field during her freshman campaign.

Patrick has started all five games so far this season for the Colonials, allowing an average of 15.22 goals per game while stopping 44.9 percent of shots sent her way. Solomon appeared in relief against No. 21 Duke and against American, allowing 10 goals in 25 minutes of play.

Senior attacker Morgan McDonnell leads the team with 11 points, notching five goals and a team-leading six assists in three games on the field. Sophomore attacker Kendall Lambert and senior midfielder Katie Quinn each have a team-leading eight goals to their names.

The Colonials have eight seniors on their roster, giving them the experience they need to make their first Atlantic 10 Tournament appearance since 2013.

Senior attacker and midfielder Caroline Kiernan said the core group of players has helped build each other’s confidence throughout the four years competing together.

“We’ve definitely learned from things that could have gone wrong last year and are trying to do things to fix it or prevent certain things from happening and I think it’s really helpful,” Kiernan said. “The eight of us have been the team for all four years so we definitely have talked about things we want to fix and the legacy that we want to leave.”

GW is back in action Wednesday to close out its three-game homestand against Georgetown. The game is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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