After an eight-day layoff, the Roger Williams University women’s lacrosse team was back to work Wednesday afternoon, April 19, taking on Commonwealth Coast Conference opponent Western New England University.
The Hawks managed to take care of business against the lowly Golden Bears with a 15-4 victory yesterday, keeping them at the No. 2 spot in the conference.
After the win over WNE and a decisive 15-2 spanking of CCC title contender Gordon College last week on April 11, the team’s confidence and play is clearly trending in the right direction.
“It was definitely a change having such a long break from our last game against Gordon until now,” said sophomore midfielder Emily Stoeppel. “During this time we had Easter, which broke up our time together, but during the eight days we really focused on WNE and what we had to do to prepare. We were able to work in some conditioning, but overall we just take everything one game at a time. Coach [Lisa] Vogeley always pushes us to practice how we want to play in games, and this break was no exception. We always try to push ourselves to get better, and hopefully that shows on the field.”
With two games left on the regular season slate, the Hawks have been flying high for most of the year. Led by Stoeppel, junior Kaelin Hogan, and senior McKenna Everding, who all rank in the top 15 for total points in the CCC, RWU has battled their way to a 10-3 record and is in the midst of a five-game winning streak—their longest of the season.
As a team that’s looking to repeat as CCC champions, the Hawks’ current position is eerily familiar to the spot they were in just a year ago. On April 20 last year, the team was 13-3, while 10-3 this season. Additionally, RWU was also in the midst of an impressive win streak at this time a year ago. That streak carried over into the postseason, lasting 11 games and culminating into a title.
Stats, records, and numbers aside, those inconsequential details have never mattered to these Hawks. What does matter? Simply results.
These results have taken the Hawks far this year, despite some members leaving the team before the season began.
“This season has been quite an adjustment for us,” Stoeppel said. “Even though we only lost one senior last year, we have a lot of new talent coming in. We have been getting used to how everyone plays, and we really try to focus on maintaining a team mentality instead of thinking about individual stats or achievement. Although we suffered some unfortunate losses earlier this season, I think that we are really coming together as a team, and it is showing in the way that we are playing on the field. Hopefully we can keep it up as we finish out the regular season.”
Before the 2017 season began, the Hawks lost a valuable leader on their roster in the form of senior captain Caitlin Murphy. Three other players, including sophomores Katharine Tighe and Alexis Wright, and freshman Morgan Chaves, also didn’t return to the team this season. Add six freshmen to the mix and RWU had to start fresh.
Chemistry within the team also took a little time to come to fruition, as showcased particularly in a 14-8 loss to first place Endicott College on March 25.
However, despite almost a third of their roster being changed, it hasn’t been a setback for the team. The reason being while the team’s talent is undeniable, their unselfishness to win is a true staple.
“I think our greatest strength as a team is our ability to play together,” Stoeppel said. “Even though we have freshmen coming onto the team we still play really well together. Not everyone on the field has the same abilities, and we recognize that and I feel that we all work to make each other even better.”
In addition to their unselfishness, the Hawks stress about the basics. From winning draw controls to forcing turnovers and keeping opposing defenses off balance, Stoeppel said the fundamentals will make or break the team in the postseason.
In the end however, experience trumps all for these Hawks. Stoeppel believes all of these factors together will result in the repeat they’re chasing.
“Between last year and this year there weren’t many roster changes to our team, so I would say that the major difference is that after our success last season, we all know what it feels like to win and we all want to get back to those same feelings.”