After a 2-6 nonconference schedule, lacrosse will look to make some noise in Atlantic 10 play in Head Coach Jennifer Ulehla’s first season that wasn’t interrupted because of the pandemic.
Ulehla was hired in June 2019 and saw her first season end abruptly due to COVID-19 after playing only seven games. Her second season was marred by the pandemic as well, and the team only played 12
Ulhela said she tested positive for the virus at the beginning of March, causing her to miss two games.
Although the former Michigan coach has faced obstacles in building the program, she said she is confident it’s heading in the right direction thanks to an infusion of talent and a strong group of leaders.
“This is a younger team, although we have great leadership and great seniors,” Ulehla said. “We do have a lot of youth, but it’s a lot of athletic and energetic youth. So for me, I knew we would have some great leadership with our seniors and they would really bring along our freshmen and even sophomores at this point to help elevate our game.”
Following a 6-6 finish to the 2021 season, the team lost 32.4 percent of their scoring to graduation, including their two highest goalscorers, midfielder Catie Perkins and attacker Ioanna Mantzouratos.
Ulehla responded by bringing in 13 freshmen, who have so far played a big role, combining to start 24 games, score nine goals and tally six assists. But with youth comes inexperience, and the team is still learning how to consistently play the high energy style that Ulehla is pushing for.
“We pride ourselves on being really competitive,” Ulehla said. “But the consistency and the concentration it takes to sustain that through an entire game is where, when you’re young, that can really ebb and flow.”
The team has tested themselves so far, playing a strong nonconference schedule in preparation for conference play. The average Ratings Power Index of the teams they’ve played is 67.75, with their toughest test coming in their first game of the year against a Navy team ranked 37th in the country.
“We’re playing teams, obviously, that are very strong,” Ulehla said. “They may not necessarily have the conference name behind them, but they’re very talented and they have great coaches.”
In the offseason, the team worked to grow closer and now prides itself on their connectivity. They are hoping to build on their off the field bonds to get tangible results on the field.
“The biggest thing for us is to really have a family and create a family here,” senior midfielder and captain Kendall Lambert said. “Someone to lean on, someone to guide you, someone to walk you through homework when you’re having troubles, someone to walk you through difficulties on the field, too.”
Lambert said the team picked up right where they left off even when Ulehla was out for a few games because they were able to rely on their assistant coaches Leighann Stauffer, Hayley Sabol and volunteer assistant coach Kelly Layton as well as strong leadership among the player base.
So far this season, Lambert has also taken on a heightened role on the field, starting every game in nonconference play for the Colonials and leading the team in assists with six, points with 11 and caused turnovers with 12.
Coming into the season, the team is predicted to finish seventh along with La Salle in the A-10 Preseason Coaches Poll. This comes after missing out on the four team conference tournament in a unique 2021 season in which they played four teams twice and didn’t play five teams at all.
“Depending on how injuries go, our goal is to make it to the A-10 tournament, to be one of those top four programs,” Ulehla said. “So we’ve got to be able to beat one of those four teams to get into the conference tournament.”
Unlike last year, the team will play all 10 teams in the conference. The Colonials will be tested immediately, playing two of the top four teams in the league to start their conference schedule.
“We’re a large team,” sophomore midfielder Kianah Watson said. “So having a strong culture of being able to support each other is very important going into the season. We’re gonna be playing a lot of games in a short period of time. So having each other’s back is incredibly important.”
GW opens conference play at Davidson on Friday, March 25 at 6:30 p.m. before coming home to play Richmond two days later at 1 p.m.