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Women's Lacrosse: 2002 Preview
In just its first year of existence, the Elizabethtown College women's lacrosse program is already shooting for the stars. Head coach Shelly Behrens, in surveying the team, remarked, "Success will come with this group. We have the potential to be really dangerous."
Indeed, the team bristles with a confidence and an enthusiasm that one may not regularly expect to find in a first-year varsity program that has not even had any seasons as a club team under its belt. There are several reasons why this is the case at Elizabethtown. For one, the talent level on this team is high and has meshed and grown very well since the fall. Also, the team's unorthodox approaches to the game in terms of both strategy and attitude could prove to reap very positive results during the season, and they already have during practices.
When Behrens arrived in the fall, she found three very specific groups of players on the team: upperclass players with lacrosse experience who decided to try out for the team, the freshmen making up the majority of the team who were recruited to begin this fledgling program, and beginners among both freshmen and upperclassmen with a great deal of athletic ability. "Now," she observed, "it's harder to differentiate between the three. It's been a very positive transformation into a team."
Behrens views it as a positive for the team to have a mixture of players with different backgrounds, and especially to have the upperclass players who "came out of the woodwork." She continued, "They chose to come out for this. They've all fit in really wonderfully." One highly talented upperclass player remarked to Behrens that she views the new-found opportunity to play lacrosse here as a great bonus on top of her education.
"They've really evolved a lot since the fall," Behrens said. "We have covered a canyon of stuff and asked a lot of them, and they've kept up." Part of what has made the team keep up so well is Behrens' stress upon making training energetic and competitive and teaching her players to see the value in conditioning. "I look at them as a group and in parts, and the potential's there, but energy needs to be applied," Behrens said. So far, the energy has taken care of itself. "They don't want to just be good," Behrens noted. "They want to excel." The result is that the Blue Jays embrace conditioning and drills.
The Blue Jays will use a rather unusual approach to the game. The team will utilize a very aggressive and attack-oriented style of play, so much so that even defenders and goaltenders will think about their role in terms of generating offense. While it has taken a little while to develop such an aggressive mentality in the team, the players have now taken to it. One method Behrens has used to create this mentality has been to make practices harder than games will be.
In addition to Elizabethtown's aggressive approach to play, another unorthodox element of the Blue Jays' style is their avoidance of limiting themselves to specific positions and roles. Positions, in the traditional sense, will only really be used to determine how players line up on the field during face-offs and to take up space on the roster list in game programs. Aside from that, versatility is the rule for Etown. This stands in stark contrast to how most lacrosse players tend to be immediately pigeonholed into one or two specific positions shortly after they take up the game.
Also, Elizabethtown will substitute heavily throughout every game with all individuals blending into the offensive system, utilizing an approach similar to what has served the school's men's basketball team well in recent years. Because of this, everyone on the team will be constantly involved in the Blue Jays' offensive attack, and this makes it difficult for opposing defenses to try to halt specific players, as well as making it difficult to prognosticate who the team's top scorers will prove to be.
Among this team full of attackers, some of the standouts could emerge in freshmen Jen Manns (Wilmington, DE), Molly Walker (Columbia, MD), Steph Boyle (Folsom, PA), and Sarah Scholl (Forest Hill, MD), as well as junior Sarah Krupka (Tabernacle, NJ), in addition to many others. However, with the way this team is set up, one can be assured that no one player or group of players will stand out very far from the rest.
The 2002 Elizabethtown College Blue Jays can see a bright future immediately before them in just their first season of existence. "It's a special thing to be the first at something," said Behrens. "They take a great deal of pride in that." Over the course of this season, according to Behrens, "We need to find out how good we can be," which could be very good indeed.