Following a disappointing 5-13 record in spring 2022 and the departure of Coach Ulehla, the lacrosse team looks to build on a new coaching staff and new additions.
Head Coach Colleen McCaffrey joined the team in July after serving as an assistant coach at Bryant University. After arriving, she immediately looked to create a culture of hard work and accountability.
“In the fall, we’ve done a lot of team building with them to help them get to know each other,” McCaffrey said. “And to kind of create a more inclusive culture for them. They have really responded well to what we’ve thrown at them in terms of very difficult practices, more intense prep. But also, they have started a shift in their mindset of what they want out of their season,” she explained.
After finishing in the bottom three of the A-10 standings and losing in the opening round of the conference championship, McCaffrey looks for fundamental improvements from her team, namely with her so-called “grit stats,” numbers that reflect high effort and intensity.
“Win each draw control, win each ground ball, cause turnovers and turnover stats per game with that, hopefully leading us to the W and L column that we would like,” McCaffrey said.
The team welcomed 13 new players, including two graduate transfers who have had an immediate impact, Whitney Moran and Kerry McKeever.
Moran stepped into a captain position for the team, using her 3 years of experience at Long Island University to establish herself as a team leader. She explained how being new to the team allowed to be more removed and therefore aware of the team dynamics, while also giving her the opportunity to build valuable friendships with her teammates.
“I’ve really found how I can influence these girls and be a friend and also be a leader and push them to be the best athletes that they can be,” Moran said.
At LIU, Moran credited the pandemic-caused break in the 2020 season with providing her extra motivation to push herself and improve everyday. In the two seasons following, she greatly improved her offensive prowess, scoring 17 and 32 goals, respectively.
She expressed how Coach McCaffrey shares the same philosophy of constantly striving for development.
“I just show up every day with a desire to learn and a desire to get better and coach really pushes us to get better every day and she doesn’t let days slip through the cracks where you don’t improve,” Moran said.
McKeever, who played four seasons at Division-III Gettysburg College, graduating in 2021, said she wants to help place the building blocks for this program, both for Coach McCafrrey going forward and for the program as a whole.
“It’s honestly so much bigger than us. And I think we both recognize that. We all have our personal goals but we would give anything, any of those up to have greater team success here,” McKeever said.
McKeever also noted the importance of building a selfless team culture, praising how Coach McCaffrey has been able to have an open line of communication in addition to being supportive.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re the number one goal scorer or a freshman, she will call you out for making mistakes, but she’s also just super warm and she cares about you as a person and she wants you to succeed outside of this program,” McKeever said of her coach.
McCaffrey highlighted the positive influence both McKeever and Moran have had on the team, impressing the on-and-off field example both players set and how the level of play has increased since their arrival.
Despite all the adjustments the team has made, they are yet to see a positive result in their record, losing the first three games by a combined score of 46-23. However, McKeever emphasized how much time is needed to build synchrony among a largely new team and expressed optimism as the season progresses
“We’ve just had trouble finding a little bit of our swagger because we haven’t had that much experience playing with each other. Our attack is all kind of still getting to know each other’s tendencies,” McKeever said. “And we’re right there. So I think that’s going to be huge and it’s going to be a turning point”
While the team is taking it one game at a time, there are tangible goals for success in conference play and a potential championship appearance.
“For this team, I want an A-10 appearance. I mean, the dream scenario is we get at least one A-10 win, I would love to be in the conference tournament,” said Moran.
Coach McCaffrey echoed this sentiment, calling conference play “go time” and communicated a cautious goal for an A-10 championship.
The team faces off next against cross-town rival American University on Wednesday at 1:00 PM. They begin conference play March 11 in Philadelphia against La Salle.