Expectations for the Linfield women’s lacrosse team are modest as the Wildcats embark on what is a rebuilding season. Six experienced players return from last season’s team that won just once in eight outings.
With last year’s struggles now a distant memory, the Wildcats are focusing on fun and fundamentals under new coach Sammy Smith.
“We’re going to have to work in every match in order to get a ‘W’,” said Smith, Linfield’s No. 2 all-time scorer with 137 goals from 2006 to 2009.
“I want our players to enjoy playing lacrosse,” said Smith. “We have players who genuinely want to come to practice and compete hard. Our ultimate goal is to win games. As long as every one is enjoying themselves, the wins are going to come.”
Three veterans will lead the front line. Brittani Drost, who netted 12 goals and an assist as a junior last season, is expected to be a focal point of the offense. Chas Tittle, who scored three times in 2012, has demonstrated marked improvement since last year and will further bolster the Wildcats’ attack. Rugged forward Shelby Duarte returns to the program after taking a year off. Duarte scored a team-leading 27 goals and assisted on three other scoring plays during 2011. First-year players Nichole Thoens, Heidi Morisset and Amelia Christy could also contribute in the scoring column.
The midfield is anchored by veterans Halee Helgerson and Lynnette Cole. Both saw action in every match a year ago. Newcomer Abigail Meckem could also earn playing time in the middle of the field.
Linfield must shore up its defense if the Wildcats are to be successful. The ‘Cats were outscored by a nearly 2-1 margin last season so assistant coach Joel Smith is implementing a fresh scheme built around communication and trust. Returner Rebecca Kropp and freshman goalkeeper Erika Phillipo should be mainstays on defense and freshmen Hana Gould and Kelsey Dammarell are likely to see plenty of playing time.
From a skills standpoint, the Wildcats are showing good catching and throwing techniques, fundamentals the team struggled to master during last year’s one-win season.
“We want to come out and surprise some teams,” said Smith. “The team dynamic has been very positive and the skills are really coming along well.”
“Just watching our team practice has been so much fun. I believe we’ll be competitive this year and there won’t be any 23-8 game like last year.”
The 2013 schedule features five consecutive home matches to open the season, starting with regional rivals Puget Sound and Pacific.