Georgia’s club lacrosse team, the reigning Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (WCLA) national champions, added four freshmen to its roster in anticipation of the spring season.
Athletes interested in playing for the team participated in fall practices and scrimmages. At the end of the fall season, the remaining players faced Division III teams in a play day for the final tryout.
As the fall season progressed, returning players noticed the number of new players dwindled off more than usual this year, which may be due to the intimidation of the team's newly acquired title.
“This year was definitely the fastest drop out [of players throughout tryouts],” captain Emily Tower said. “With the stigma of coming back as a returning championship team a lot of people fell off quicker.”
Prior to the fall season, Emma Woodward, a rookie from Alpharetta, was unaware of the team’s national championship title. She said she felt more pressure after she overheard returning players mention it at practice.
Woodward, who did not play lacrosse her senior year of high school due to injury, worried she would not keep up with the more experienced players after her year-long hiatus from the sport. However, she said the fall season helped develop her game.
“I’ve learned more in this one fall season than I have in my whole life because I’m playing with people who are at a higher level than I’ve ever played with before,” Woodward said.
Caroline Christ, a rookie from Milton, also felt the pressure at tryouts knowing the team was last year’s national champions, but she saw that as a chance to improve her own skills.
“I knew this was going to be a totally different ball game of players [from high school], but it is a good opportunity because playing with people above you make you so much better,” Christ said.
Although the pressure of playing with the reigning national champions elevated the rookies’ nerves, all four said they felt more comfortable after a brief introduction to the close-knit team’s quirks, like 10-second dance parties and each teammate’s appointed nickname.
As an out-of-state rookie, Ashton Clary, from Mechanicsville, Virginia, attributed the team’s fun mentality with encouraging a strong bond between the players, but she said she admired the team’s ability to “get serious and have a good practice.”
“My high school team was like a family and I came here nervous I wouldn’t get that," said Hunter Corvin, a rookie from Marietta. "But this team is totally like a family. Everyone has fun when they’re together and they’re very accepting of other people. They just want to get to know everyone and I’m very lucky to be on [the team].”
At the fall play day, 14 new players tried out for the team. What set Christ, Clary, Corvin and Woodward apart from the others was not only their ability to keep up with the returning players but their attitudes throughout the fall season.
“Attitude is a big thing we look for because we’re club so we can really go by that,” Tower said. “If they show a lot of potential that they can adapt and learn from us and [we] see them grow from day one or two of tryouts until the end, that girl has more pull than others.”
Regardless of the pressure from last year’s success, the team is focused on small goals to prepare for the 2017 season, with maintaining a good mentality, commitment level and sportsmanship at the top of the list.
Both Tower and Gaby Lohner, club president and captain, credited the previous season’s achievements to the team’s humble approach and hard work. Although the team aims to defend its title, the players hope to keep an unassuming mindset heading into the 2017 season.
“On the unspoken side, we definitely want to return and win a national championship, but one of our goals was not to think about that on a day-to-day basis,” Tower said. “It’s almost harder this year because we don’t feel like underdogs. We were so gracious for it and now we have to keep that mentality.”
After the 2016 spring season, Lohner said the team lost three pivotal seniors including two attackers who scored half of the team’s goals combined in the national championship game.
Despite the loss of key starters, Lohner expressed confidence in the four rookies and looks forward to the new season.
“We like them a lot as people, but also they can handle playing with us,” Lohner said. “They’re so willing and they ask so many questions that it’s easy to teach. Putting them in [a game] as a unit with everything else that’s happening, I think they can hang.”