Author: Linnea Dewees
Two years ago, Occidental had no varsity lacrosse program to speak of. But in a single year, coaches Michele Uhlfelder and Jacqueline McDevitt established a highly competitive women’s program. Though it is still a work in progress, the program looks promising in its second season.
In 2009, women’s lacrosse was a club sport. However, as the number of students at Occidental began to increase, so did the demand for more women’s varsity sports teams. Adding a women’s lacrosse program gave female athletes more opportunities to compete in varsity sports at a school with a student body that is 56 percent female.
In 2010 lacrosse was officially added as a varsity sport in the NCAA. This addition was inevitable given its rising popularity nationwide. “It has a lot of potential because it’s the fastest growing team sport in the country,” Uhlfelder said.
Last year the Tigers succeeded in winning only two out of 16 season games. “Any time you’re in your first year, the score board doesn’t tell the whole story,” Uhlfelder said.
Though the season was a difficult one for the women, it helped orient both the program and the team. “We didn’t exactly have a strong sense of each other on the field then,” captain Haley Gandsey (sophomore) said.
This year, the Tigers added 10 recruits, which drastically increased the depth of their roster. “Our freshmen are extremely talented,” Lucy Vallejo-Anderson (senior) said.
The addition of these new members has helped the Tigers reach a much higher level of competition, with the whole team working to push each other to improve on a daily basis. “The freshmen have definitely upped the team’s competitiveness, especially at practice,” Gandsey said.
However, with first-years comprising half the roster, the team must overcome the difficulties that come with inexperience. The new members have yet to adjust to college-level lacrosse and the new team.
“We’re a pretty young team so we don’t really know each others playing styles on the field. But its also a strength because being a younger team means we’re all energetic,” Emily Fowler (first-year) said.
Given the amount of progress the Tigers have made this year, the team will be stronger than ever. “We’ve got a lot of energy this season,” Uhlfelder said. “Last year was about laying groundwork. This is our year to really make some noise.”
Captains Lucy Vallejo-Anderson (senior) and Gandsey realize how drastically the team has changed. “We’ve had ridiculous improvement,” Vallejo-Anderson said after the UCLA club scrimmage last Saturday. “We definitely aren’t the same team this year.”
Coach Uhlfelder recognizes the team’s dedication and competitive energy. “Even through our most challenging moments they stay competitive. They stay invested,” Uhlfelder said, “We can go far, as long as they bring their competitiveness.” She has high hopes for the coming season and for the future of women’s lacrosse at Occidental. “We’re creating a reputation for ourselves against some very established programs in the SCIAC. This is the year to do it.”
The Tigers approached their first scrimmage against UCLA’s club team last Saturday as a chance to discover their strengths and weaknesses. Despite losing to the Bruins, the team’s energy and eagerness to improve stood out. “We’ve got this strong cohesion in games that I’ve never seen before” Gandsey said.
With their first SCIAC league game against CMS on Feb. 23, the Tigers are working harder than ever to reach their potential. A combination of young talent and experienced upperclassmen leadership makes this a team to look out for this spring. If anything, the Tigers will start their season off on an exciting high note.
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