Last year the Emerson women's lacrosse team finished first place in the GNAC during the regular season, but fell to second-seeded Norwich in the conference championship. Coming off the best season in the history of the program, the Lions expect good things for the coming year.
Many players from last year will be returning to the turf this season. However, Head Coach Mike Blanchard, who was selected as co-coach of the year in the 2008 season, has resigned, and this year Gail Decker-Wittman and Katie Shannon will take on the position of co-head coaches.
"I think it's beneficial for the girls to have two women coaches who have been through the same things they are experiencing now," Shannon explained. "We both have different coaching styles and I think it works for us because we balance each other out."
Decker-Wittman was the assistant coach in the 2008 season and has a long history with women's lacrosse. Among her many achievements as a player are a player of the year award, Honda Athlete of the Year, an appearence on the top 10 list for "Most Goals in a Season" in NCAA Division I lacrosse and breaking 32 women's lacrosse records at James Madison University.
The other head coach this season is Katie Shannon, who, like Decker-Wittman, was an assistant coach during the 2008 season and also a long time lacrosse player. She played lacrosse while attending Stonehill College, tallying her own impressive lists of achievements. She was named Northeast 10 Defensive Player of the Year and was selected as a first-team All-American, and will use her own experience to help the team improve.
Already, the new coaches have been met with an overall positive response from the girls.
"The coaches are phenomenal. They couldn't be any better for us," said co-captain Megan Ross.
Another perk of this season's coaching is that Decker-Wittman is an offensive minded coach whereas Shannon is all about the defense. This brings a good balance to the team and to the program. They are also very open to suggestion and flexible in their coaching plan which greatly pleases the players.
"I absolutely love them," said Robinson. "They listen and take suggestions from us and they don't go in with a set plan. They know both our strengths and weaknesses but they emphasize the positive."
The team has also added nine freshman to their roster. Coach Shannon said this year's freshman class is "one of the best recruiting classes that [they] have had."
Of all the Lion efforts, three players in particular stood out. Goalie Kristen DeTroia has "become unstoppable over the past few months," said Ross. In the game against Curry, DeTroia tallied up a total of thirteen saves. Another impressive statistic came from Amy Gervis, who scored 8 goals in her first game for Emerson. Kayla Dowd also continued to provide a strong effort on the defensive end.
"Nine freshmen can almost field a team on their own," said Robinson. "As a class in general they are very respectful and willing to learn."
Ross continued to praise the freshman and their skill level.
"All of our freshmen are ridiculous. Our games in spring break brought out the players in all of them."
Over spring break, the women's lacrosse team traveled to West Palm Beach, Florida for a tournament.
Before this tournament, the team had yet to have an outdoor practice. This may have contributed to what Ross called a shaky start against Curry College. However, the Lions were able to regroup and tie the score, sending the game into overtime. Emerson wound up losing by two, but a defeat against a powerhouse such as Curry was seen as a positive for the program. Overall, the Lions ended the trip with a 1-2 record.
"Our coaches were really happy that we played well together. We all can work off of each other's strengths," said Robinson.
This tournament also gave the team insight on what they need to work on for the future.
"Honestly, the weakest part collectively was defending through the mid-field. But towards the end of the week we got faster," said Ross.
"We need to work on communicating on defense," said Ross. "We need to work on not making stupid mistakes and playing smart lacrosse. We just need to play smart and we'll do well,"
This year they hope to do even better, but realize that they must take the season slow and not get to far ahead of themselves.
"One game at a time," said Coach Shannon. "If we make it to the finals again, then we will definitely have a better game plan than last year. We know what to expect."