All of the women’s lacrosse teams in the MAAC have been counting down the days to the month of March after an unfortunate, pandemic-induced cancelation caused the rest of their 2020 seasons to end so abruptly.
With no lacrosse for the remainder of the spring semester and no opportunities to play fall ball due to COVID-19, the Marist women’s lacrosse team is eager to pick up their 2021 campaign right where it left off.
“Excited is an understatement,” Marist head coach Jess Wilkinson grinned. “It’s a very different landscape this year. The want to play is magnified so much more because of what’s going on in the world and how our last time together had ended.”
“We’re so excited to be able to practice together and really play lacrosse together,” graduate student Sam Mehalick continued.
Their last time together on the field for a game was March 10, 2020. The Red Foxes went 2-4 before the shutdown, and had not seen any in-conference competition. A stark difference to what they will see this season. With no outside schools in the schedule, the second they start their season is the second conference play begins.
“We see MAAC teams every year. It’s the same people, familiar faces, it’s really personal for us,” senior goalkeeper Delaney Galvin noted.
Galvin, as well as midfielder Romy Villamure, defender Allison Mahoney and attack Devon Connolly will serve as the captains this season with hopes to lead the team in all facets of the field.
With the extra year of eligibility granted to senior athletes in the class of 2020, two Red Foxes chose to return. Mehalick, who is one of the most decorated attack players in all of Marist women’s lacrosse, and Jess Lasaponara, a gifted player in the midfield who wins battles for draw controls and ground balls.
“It’s very telling what types of players they are, knowing that they didn’t know what they were getting into when they signed up for another year. It says that they have a lot to bring to the table more than their efforts on the field,” Coach Wilkinson said.
“I know I speak on behalf of the whole team and my class itself, we’re so lucky to have them back as extra leaders on the field,” Galvin noted.
Mehalick is one of many gifted attackers who return to the team this season. Senior Kelly George is a great feeder from X, Connolly can shoot, and junior Alexandra Di Chiara can step up to put one past the opposition.
Lasaponara and Villamure will be leading the charge on the circle, winning battles for the ground balls. Junior Melissa Butcher saw action in all six games last season, and is also a key player in transition.
Defensively, there are a few gaps to fill due to players graduating. Regardless, the defense will still be solid and shut down any threats to the cage. Mahoney breaks up passes and wins 50/50 battles. Junior Sheridan DeVito played in five games last year on the defensive end and will hopefully look to give a few younger players the chance to step in and make their presence known.
When it comes to who’s in net, Galvin is a no-brainer. Last season, she led all of the NCAA with saves per game. She shows up big every time she steps on the field. Her team looks to her leadership and her excitable energy to help get them going.
The Red Foxes bring in six freshmen to the program this year, all of whom have countless accolades to their names from their high school careers. Depth will also be a huge advantage for them with 29 players on the roster, they have one of the bigger sized squads in the conference.
“Our freshman class is sick,” Mehalick said. “I’m so pumped to see them play.”
The first time the team was able to step on the field and practice was on March 1, leaving them five days to prepare for their first game. They hit the turf on Saturday, March 6 against Manhattan at home.
“I think because we’re all so eager and ready to play, I don’t have any doubts [in the team],” Mehalick mentioned.
“With the March 1 start date and us being the last team in our conference to start, and having five days to work before the first game kind of puts us at an underdog position. I think a lot of the teams are underestimating us right now,” Galvin bounced off her teammate. “Five days means nothing to us. We just have to get out there and take every single second we have on this field to work for that first game and the games following.”
Regardless of how eager the women’s lacrosse team is, there are rules that must be followed in order to have a safe season amidst a global pandemic. All teams this spring will be tested three times a week and have to be careful about where they go and who they interact with.
“COVID is tricky,” Coach Wilkinson said. “I know there are situations where there is a close contact with a player who lives in a dorm with someone and we lose a few girls because of their living situation for two weeks, that is something we are going to have to roll with. Our makeup during our practices is trying to get every single player ready for what’s to come.”
Even if there are schedule changes or players being unavailable due to health risks, the women’s lacrosse team is ready to take on whatever comes their way and compete at the highest level to bring a championship home.
Edited by Bridget Reilly and Nick Stanziale