By Kari Condel and James Evans
“The thought of our 21 players making history here at DeSales prior to the first draw gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes,” said coach Rachel Smith.
Although the season is far from over, the women’s lacrosse team made DeSales history, as they commenced their inaugural season.
Before their first ever game in late February, the women were only hopeful participants of the MAC Freedom conference. Every practice up to that point was fueled by hopes and dreams that would only become a reality with relentless effort and laser-focus.
Constant and steady improvement came to the team through their own application as well as leadership from coaches and as fellow teammates. The culture for the team is essential, setting standards and goals to follow and achieve for both the near and distant future.
“Putting on that uniform for the first time ever was a rush of emotions,” said player Megan Lee. “Knowing that my teammates and I worked so hard for this opportunity that is finally here.”
As of press time, the team is off to a 2-4 start, with their first win in program history coming earlier this March against Gwynedd Mercy.
However, despite the slow start, the women’s team will have another few weeks to work out the kinks of an inaugural season, before MAC Conference play begins. Their first conference game will be at FDU-Florham on April 5. From then, the team will play four of their next six conference games at home on the fresh turf fields, looking for a MAC Freedom Tournament birth.
In prior years, the lacrosse program was only a club team, ultimately having to make its own fight, by players, to reach a competitive level of play. Coaches and players alike found difficulties along the way, such as NCAA rules and different academic legislation that is in place. They jumped through many hoops to become a standing Division III team and to make it known to players, the community and to potential recruits.
The team, at a glance, is what one would expect an inaugural season to look like. The roster is constituted of seven juniors, eight sophomores and five freshmen, alongside a coach that is in her first season in a head coach role.
“They are trailblazers,” said Smith as she reflects on her team and their progress leading up to this point.
However, starting with coach Smith, the team’s inexperience should certainly not be confused with a lack of talent.
Having previously been a graduate assistant for a fellow MAC team in Stevenson University the past few seasons, Smith was instrumental in coaching the Mustangs to their first, and only, title in the MAC Commonwealth in 2014. Since then, the Mustangs have come in second place both 2015 and 2016, telling of the lasting development and talent coach Smith will hope to similarly groom at DeSales.
Likewise, while all of the athletes playing for the team this spring have never suited up for DeSales women’s lacrosse until this year, there is a litany of athletes who play for other DeSales teams. This includes several field hockey players and a handful of soccer players, which is a tremendous indicator of the athletic potential of the roster going forward.
“This program has everything to gain,” said Lee. With the program’s first win against Gwynedd Mercy University, March 8, 2017 will be a date to remember. The Bulldogs won their second game 14-4 against Bryn Mawr College on March 18.
Continuing to make history for the program, the team plans to make a huge step up in the MAC Freedom conference next year, going for the first MAC Freedom Tournament.
Confidence is growing with each practice, each game and each step on the field. This program and those involved strive every day to make both a positive name and reputation for the team, gaining momentum and spirit from fans both near and far.
Loyalty, learning and hard labor have dictated the season for women’s lacrosse thus far, and will continue with the team as they gain more recognition and encounter stages of growth. From here, the sky’s the limit for the women’s lacrosse team, as they hope to make their inaugural season one to remember.