After coming out of a bye and holding No. 4 Wheaton to four goals in the semi-finals, the 2015 Springfield College women’s lacrosse team was 12 minutes away from holding off the MIT Engineers in the NEWMAC Finals. 12 minutes away from claiming the NEWMAC title on the friendly confines of Stagg Field.
But a potent blend of MIT offense and defensive stops swept such hopes away, like tears running across eye black, as the Engineers mounted a late 6-0 run against the No. 1 Pride, jumping a 10-5 deficit. Under livid colored clouds and a vacant, overcast sky, the perfect storm commenced in the ides of the second half. It subsided with 52 seconds to play in the game, as a fatal eleventh goal for MIT bounced off of the crossbar, and south into the net.
This sealed Springfield’s fate, and with it, the Engineers earned an 11-10 victory. The win on rival turf propelled MIT to their first-ever NEWMAC championship and a ticket to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
11 months and 305 days after such a deflating home field collapse however, and the 2016 Springfield women’s lacrosse team cannot fret about the unanswered goals, the shots off the crossbars, or the tears of the past. The Pride lost only four games throughout last year’s campaign, three coming during the regular season, but none coming at the hands of a conference opponent. Last year’s 15-3 record was a program best.
The team is poised to return to such form. Head coach Kristen Mullady has high expectations for the ’16 squad.
“We always strive to be the best that we can be,” she said. “So our major goals [this year] are to win the NEWMAC tournament as the top seed and get into NCAAs. They are very hard workers, so they come into the season very well prepared, [and] we’re all healthy.”
It will be crucial for Springfield to substitute the talent lost from last year’s NEWMAC run due to the graduation of several seniors.
“We lost a solid defender in Ellie Getchell, and we lost Michelle Dorsey and Colleen Keeley who were on attack,” said Mullady.
Getchell finished her career at defense with 99 caused turnovers. Dorsey recorded 144 goals, 180 points, and 118 draw controls while shooting 46 percent throughout her four years with the Pride. Last year she shattered the Springfield single season record of 53 goals. Keeley complemented Dorsey’s offensive efficiency with career totals of 16 goals, 33 assists, and 49 points.
Mullady believes that there are several players featured on the roster who can make significant impacts this year. She is expecting big things out of Shelby Corsano, who in the first two contests of the season has registered five goals, four assists, and nine points, senior attacker Bianca Raniolo (three goals, three points, four caused turnovers), midfielder Heather Raniolo, who is “very versatile on both ends of the field” (four goals, five points), and junior goalkeeper Gabby Anderson.
“[Anderson] is great,” said Mullady. “Last year she was ranked high in the nation for goalie saves . She [received] some awards at the end of last season, but she keeps pushing to get better and has been doing very well from the start.”
There are also specific underclassmen who have impressed the coaches early. Sophomore midfielder Kristen Steidler has tallied three goals and three points and is currently matching her shot on goal percentage from her rookie year (75 percent). Her work ethic specifically, has been appreciated thus far.
“[Steidler] got some time last year, but she’s really worked hard in the offseason to get to where she needs to be as a midfielder for us,” Mullady said. “She has a lot of endurance, and she’s very strong.”
Freshman defender Andie Stone has also made a positive mark. “[Stone is] starting for us right now,” said Mullady. “She’s doing a good job. She’s battling through a new defense that she’s not accustomed to playing to, so she’s working hard, [and] pushing through the mistakes.”
Mullady anticipates that if the offense consistently flows well, the title of “goal scoring threat” will not be linked to one sole player.
“I feel like this year we’re way more versatile,” she said. “You’re not going to see the same girl scoring which is going to be good. Everyone’s bringing very different things to the table.”
In contrast to offense, the Pride’s mindset on defense has intensified and has become a principle focus for the team. Mullady foresees Springfield to be formidable in the NEWMAC if the defensive scheme is mastered. “We’re running a new defense this year,” she said. “It’s a little more complicated; we’re asking much more from our players compared to our defense last year. So [defensively], it is going to take a little time but we’ve put a lot of time in and they’re buying into it. [The team], they don’t give up when things don’t go well, and that’s huge when trying to implement the defense that we’re implementing.”
The Pride is certainly off to a strong start. In their first two games on the road, they are 2-0. Springfield has scored 24 goals total, while getting 30 shots off per game and sporting and 40 percent team shot percentage.
“[The offense] is getting better day-by-day,” Mullady said. “In the first game we had some challenges [with] trying to work together and figure each other out as far as passing and driving go.”
In their season debut, the Pride defeated Eastern Connecticut State by the score of 15-11. Springfield shot much more than Eastern, with shots totaling to 31-19 in Springfield’s favor. The Pride also led in draw controls, outpacing Eastern 18-10. This was a big help for Springfield, as it was able to score consistently throughout the contest, and as a result, was able to survive Eastern’s late eight goal surge, after getting off to a seven goal start in the first.
Springfield proceeded to win a defensive struggle against Western New England. The Pride mounted a comeback after being down by five in the first for a short time. Springfield’s stingy defense kept the Golden Bears quiet in the second, as they held them to one goal. They ultimately ran past them with five goals in the second, claiming the tilt with a final score of 9-6. Again, the Pride controlled the draw.
“We always say that the draw wins games,” said Mullady. “We have different people on the draw this year who are doing a really good job stepping up.”
The team has used three primary players up to this point at the draw. Corsano has 10 draw controls this year, as she is already nine draws away from matching a career best (19). Raniolo has pulled in five after a count of 53 draw controls last year, while Steidler has two after claiming 19 her freshmen year.
Springfield will take to Stagg Field for the first time since its Finals loss to MIT on Saturday, where they will host Plymouth State.