It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for the Linfeld women’s lacrosse team during the Wildcats’ 2013 season.
On paper, Linfield went all nine games without earning a victory on the scoreboard. Yet every player left the field happy, content that they had made improvements to their overall game in every contest.
First-year coach Sammy Smith took over the program armed with just slightly more than the minimum number of players needed to field a starting lineup. With no bench to call upon and many players experiencing the sport for the first time, a lot of Smith’s coaching was dedicated to teaching basic concepts of the burgeoning sport.
“We need a better grasp of the fundamentals of the game. Our catching and throwing was rough around the edges,” said Smith, herself a former Wildcats player. “We were able to put some polish on those techniques by the end of the season, even if it wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard.”
Linfield often found itself trailing early in matches and lacked the offensive firepower to play from behind.
“Our transition to offense still needs a lot of work,” said the coach. “We were in the process of fixing some of the problems we were having but just ran out of time.”
Nonetheless, the Wildcats played with an infectious enthusiasm, a rare yet encouraging happenstance for a team struggling to win even one match.
“Rebecca Kropp became a respected leader and captain. She did a fantastic job,” said Smith. “Shelby Duarte really stepped up as a leader, both on and off the field.”
Duarte led the team in scoring with 15 goals and senior Brittani Drost added another 11.
“On the field, Haylee Helgerson was 150 percent into every game. It wouldn’t matter if were down on the scoreboard, she would continue to play with great intensity. Haylee is one of those players you wish you had 12 more of,” said Smith.
Helgerson potted four goals and set up five other tallies to lead the team in assists. Fellow veteran Chas Tittle added three goals and four assists.
Linfield’s newcomers contributed raw energy while learning the strategies and nuances of the sport.
“Heidi Morisset, Cirrena Troutt and Nichole Thoens all performed very well for players who were competing in lacrosse for the first time,” said Smith. “Their positive attitudes and steady improvement were fun to watch.”
Erika Phillipo and Kaleigh Phillips shared time guarding the goal but faced a barrage of shots from opponents. The Wildcats were outshot by a 336-91 margin and outscored 180-34.
“It was an eye-opening experience. I couldn’t have done it without my dad (assistant coach Joel Smith), who I could always trust and rely on for advice. As a first-year coach, it was a steep learning curve, but I feel as though it is going to get easier with each new season.”