Women’s lacrosse prepares for season to claim fourth GNAC title

For most student-athletes, the thought of winning a conference championship would be a dream come true.

Many student-athletes work hard day in and day out throughout their whole collegiate careers and never come close  or even make the playoffs.

However, for some teams, the issue is how to stay on top, maintaining the status of being the  team to beat.

Norwich lacrosse players prepare for the upcoming season with practices in Shapiro Field House to over come the winter weather. (Ivy Ceballo Photo)

Norwich lacrosse players prepare for the upcoming season with practices in Shapiro Field House to over come the winter weather. (Ivy Ceballo Photo)

That’s the case for the Norwich women’s lacrosse team, which  will be looking to capture its fourth consecutive GNAC title this season,  along with making a third straight NCAA tournament appearance.

Winning conference championships brings high expectations year-in and year-out for the team, which has an  overall mind-set of defending yet another title. While that’s the norm for women’s lacrosse, there’s also pressure from the expectations that fall on each player.

“So far every season for us upperclassmen there’s been pressure, but it is just something that we all put in the back of our minds,” said Grace Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick, a junior midfielder from Falmouth, Maine, was named captain along with two other girls for this upcoming season. Fitzpatrick returns from being the second leading scorer from last season and earning all GNAC honors team as well.

“Looking back at last year and the year before, our mind-set was just taking it one game at a time and just focusing on what’s at hand,” Fitzpatrick said.

For the past three seasons Norwich has been at the top of the totem pole in the GNAC conference, making them a large target.

“Winning the conference three years in a row definitely makes us a team that everyone wants a piece of,” stated Caitlyn Trepess, 20, a junior architecture major from Scotia, N.Y., who was also named co-captain for this upcoming season.

“Even though every team is trying to take us down, it helps a lot that we have a winning mentality and know what it takes to win championships,” said Trepess, who has been a cornerstone for the team’s defense in the past two years.

The Lady Cadets embark on a challenging road in 2013 as they bring back only one of their five top scorers from last season. The Class of 2012 graduated eight players who have had a major impact in their recent success.

Despite what appears to be a whole new team, sophomore co-captain Gina Conroy is confident Norwich can still continue its winning routine.

“I think a lot of people are not going to optimistic about this season because we did lose a lot (seniors), but honestly, the games are going tell you what we’re going to be,” Conroy asserted.

Conroy, 20, a psychology major from Amherst N.H., is coming off a solid freshman season earning second team all-GNAC honors as a defenseman in 2012.

Norwich is also looking to continue the program’s current run of 29 consecutive GNAC victories which is the longest in conference history.

When asked about the winning streak, Conroy replied, “We take each day with a grain of salt,” she said. “Our mind-set is that we don’t care about what is at stake and just focus on the actual game itself and beating our opponent.”

The Maroon and Gold are picked to repeat in 2013 by earning first place in the GNAC preseason polls. Norwich received eight out of the possible 10 first-place votes over second-ranked Lasell, which received the other two votes.

“It’s nice to be pre-season number one but we all know it doesn’t really mean much because anything can happen,” defender Miranda Otto said.

Otto, a junior architecture major from Lakewood, Wash., believes the Lady Cadets will be more than ready when their season starts. Their planned opener against the Owls of Westfield State on March 2 was canceled.

“I’m excited for it, last year we beat them for the first time ever so I think they’re definitely out for blood,” she said. Norwich came out victorious in last year’s 17-15 shootout over the Owls at Howard Field.

After training indoors, the team is eager to play.  “It will be good to go out there and see where we stand versus good competition,” freshman midfielder Caroline Manning said. “For a lot of us it will be our first collegiate game so it will be a good learning experience at the same time.”

Manning, a criminal justice major from Duxbury, Mass., explained that one of the main challenges for this season will be team chemistry on the field as a result of the dramatic changes in the roster.

“With having a young team it’s difficult getting used to playing with all new people, but it definitely is coming along. We can see that we’re getting better each day and I like direction this team is going in,” Manning said.

At least, the Lady Cadets have the comfort of knowing that with no seniors on this year’s roster,  they are facing much less changeover come next year.

“For right now, it’s been difficult playing with almost a brand new team, but I see it progressing every day,” Emily Shrum said when asked about team chemistry. “I think we just have to patient with one another at first and know it will all come together.”

Shrum, 21, a junior geology major from Park Hill, Md., plays a key role in the midfield and has experience from the previous two seasons, which this young team needs.

“Even though we’re going through a period where everyone is trying to figure out what  their role is on the team, it will eventually reward us in the future because there are no seniors and next season we will not have to really go through all of that,” Trepess added.

The Lady Cadets next face tough non-conference opponent Husson University. Norwich will begin GNAC play at Anna Maria College on March 23 as the team looks to continue its conference win streak.

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