Author: Alison Caditz
If you have not seen the Oxy Women’s Lacrosse team training this season, it’s probably because you are still sleeping. At 7:00 AM, four days a week, a small yet dedicated group of 12 lacrosse players meet on Patterson to train before class.
The team is a diverse one, composed of a core group which has been playing for six to eight years, as well as several who are wielding a lacrosse stick for the very first time. Despite the wide spectrum of skills, the team is united in their excitement about becoming an NCAA Division III program next spring.
Although Women’s Lacrosse is still a club program, competing in the Western Women’s Lacrosse League with schools like Santa Clara, Michigan and UC Santa Barbara this season stands in stark contrast to the previous year. Last season, the Tigers were successful, finishing third in the league, with a record of four wins and one loss.
This spring, in preparation for the transition to competing in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Tigers have a full schedule of 16 games. These include both league games as well as unofficial games against SCIAC teams.
“Everybody wants to scrimmage us so they can get a sense of who they will be playing next year,” Coach Herbie Huff said. “We’ve really improved since last year, but the schedule is much more difficult, so our improvement is tough to see.”
Despite a tough loss to Redlands, a SCIAC team ranked third in the western region, the Tigers have shown themselves to be a force that teams will need to reckon with next year.
“We’ve played really well and lost a couple of times,” Coach Huff said. “We lost nine to six to Pomona-Pitzer. Had a couple of bounces gone our way, we could have won.”
In league play, the Tigers have lost all but two games, but were very competitive and lost by only a few goals to Sonoma and Cal Berkeley.
“It’s hard to lose, but we’re keeping our heads up,” midfielder Sarah Kushner (sophomore) said. “It’s frustrating playing teams with literally 25 girls when we only have 12, but we have nothing to lose and it’s a learning experience.”
This week the team is coming off a win against San Jose State at the Santa Barbara Shootout, as well as a decisive 14 to 13 victory against the USC ‘B’ team.
“It was one of the best games I’ve seen,” player Lucy Vallejo-Anderson (sophomore) said. “It was a good team booster to come out on top, especially since we were down a player, and they had a full roster.”
Kushner is also motivated by the win against USC. “We saw a glimpse of that team chemistry that we need to win games,” she said.
One of the team’s biggest challenges has been a lack of numbers. The Tigers often play down at least a player, and struggle to effectively run practices. The team has also been faced with injuries, including midfielder Vallejo-Anderson, whose recent ACL tear has eliminated “one of the team’s best players,” Coach Huff said.
The team relies on its experienced players for guidance and leadership, but also looks to its new players as they develop over the course of the season. “Elle Heywood has played six full games without any previous experience,” Coach Huff said.
Also, Kayla Noland (first-year) stepped into the goalkeeper position this season without ever having played lacrosse before.
“There are a lot of new players who joined this year,” Vallejo-Anderson said. “Everyone is working so hard, and learning on the run.”
Coach Huff is anticipating a bigger roster in the coming year. Already six to eight recruits are expressing a strong interest in playing lacrosse at Oxy.
“Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in America, and Oxy is a well-positioned school to play on a lacrosse team,” Coach Huff said. “Who wouldn’t want to play lacrosse in the sun?”
Current players anticipate that the incoming class will increase the team’s intensity.
“The experienced players who come next year will raise the expectations for individuals and the team as a whole,” Vallejo-Anderson said.
Team funding will change with varsity status for Women’s Lacrosse. No longer will players have to provide their own transportation and pay for gas and lodging. Also, becoming a varsity sport will increase exposure and encourage support from the Occidental community.
Next year will certainly be a building year, but Coach Huff is very optimistic about the future of the Women’s Lacrosse program at Oxy.
“I think we can beat any team in the league,” she said. “Our record doesn’t reflect our potential in the league. All the players know how to play 60 minutes, and I think that’s a strength. There may only be eleven to 13 players, but each is a quality contributor.”
The Tigers’ next home game will be on Feb. 28th against Cal Poly, at 2:00 PM.
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