Women’s lacrosse bringing “heart and hustle” for postseason run

Senior captain Kaelin Hogan during practice.

Playoff season is finally upon us, and for the Roger Williams University women’s lacrosse team, where every game in the postseason will be do or die, “heart and hustle” is the theme.

“The first part of the season, you play with your mind, and then the second part of the season you play with your body,” said Hawks Head Coach Jennifer Fox. “The third part of the season you play with your heart. I think all teams are playing with heart right now and I think that shows.”

With the regular season complete after a 20-6 road victory over Gordon College last Saturday, the Hawks have begun to turn their attention to the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Tournament, where they know better than anyone that anything can happen.

“Playoffs, it’s anybody’s game. I think people have nothing to lose,” Fox said. “So no matter who we play it’s a game, and I think playoffs are just a different mentality and this could be their last game, everyone’s last game.”

The Hawks closed the 2018 regular season second in the conference and on a roll, earning five straight victories and a 12-3 overall record (7-1 conference record) — the fourth straight season they’ve finished with at least 11 regular season wins. The lone conference loss was to first-place Endicott College in early April at Bayside Field.

RWU aims to make the conference championship game for the fifth straight time, but before that, they await the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup between No. 3 seed Western New England University and No. 6 seed University of New England. The Hawks will host the winner of that game on Tuesday, May 1 in the CCC semifinals.

According to Hawks senior captain Kaelin Hogan, RWU isn’t going to be overlooking any opponent anytime soon.

“Right now we are taking the games one at a time,” Hogan said. “We are focusing on our competition for the semifinals game and aren’t jumping ahead. Like I mentioned before, we all know how close we are to our dream and are pushing ourselves everyday to achieving it. Each day we come in with a pumped up and positive attitude. We know we are going to be pushed during the week to improve on our weaknesses and build on our strengths, but that is what we hope to show in the postseason play.”

The 2017 CCC Offensive Player of the Year and all-time RWU points leader will look to use her dynamic playmaking abilities to help the Hawks earn a conference championship game berth. Like Hogan, junior attacker Emily Stoeppel and senior middie Carly Martin, who were second and fourth on the team in goals scored this season respectively, are expected to be key pieces of RWU’s attack.

While Hogan, Stoeppel, and Martin have been some of the clearcut stars throughout the regular season and should continue to be so, the postseason obviously offers a time where under the radar players have a chance to be x-factors in the biggest moments.

When asked about potential players on her team that she anticipated stepping up, Fox pointed to girls on her offense and defense. 

On attack, Fox stated this Hawks team has more threats this season than she’s seen in the past when she scouted for Endicott as an assistant coach last season; underclassmen Devon Sarazin, Shayne Rivard, and Delana Erickson stand out in particular. Freshmen Sarazin and Erickson combined for 51 goals and 37 assists in 2018, while the sophomore Rivard tallied 23 goals, fifth on the team. 

On defense, Fox believes the collective unit hasn’t gotten enough credit. This RWU defense has slowly gotten better throughout the year, as evidenced by their No. 2 conference ranked scoring defense and goals allowed average of 6.50. The Hawks D even had the CCC’s only shutout win against Nichols College on April 18. 

That group has been headlined by senior captain Nicole Palombo, junior Serena Murphy, and second-year goalkeeper Lydia Nelson.

Many of these role players, Fox believes, have the opportunity to make significant impacts on the big stage.

“I think we have a lot of role players that might not be getting the stats, but they play big, big roles in making things happen,” Fox said.

With nine days between games from the regular season finale against Gordon to the semifinals on Tuesday, the Hawks have been keeping the practice workload light, but also focused, according to Fox. She pointed to the team executing a campus scavenger hunt this past Monday during practice as one example of keeping things light, and bringing back preseason drills and steady conditioning to keep the team ready to go.

At this point in the year, where the season-long grind combined with a playoff atmosphere can make or break teams, the Hawks are relying on their heart and hustle to push through.

“I think some people are really stepping up and I know every team at this point in the season, they’re hurt and their bodies are like they’re walking zombies, but our girls I think are really playing right now for each other, which I’m really proud of them for that,” Fox said. “Heart and hustle. I tell them pack it every away game. Every home game it’s here, but I think they’re playing with heart and hustle and I’m proud of them for that. Bring on playoffs.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s game, Hogan’s confidence in her team to achieve their ultimate goal remains high, just as it’s been all year long.

“I am more than confident that this team will win the championship,” she said. “Especially the last few games, we have been hitting a lot of our goals that we have set prior to the games. We are coming together as a team and improving on our small mistakes. I know that every last player will give it their all on the field, and that heart and hustle is what will win a championship.”