Women’s Lacrosse Concludes Inaugural Season With (5-10) Record

By Spencer MacDonald

The Kalamazoo College women’s Lacrosse team dropped its final two games this season over the weekend falling 20-12 to Calvin College on Saturday and 15-10 to Olivet on Sunday.

The Hornets fell behind early to Calvin, giving up eight unanswered goals to start off the game.  They were unable to rally back against the MIAA-playoff bound Knights, who currently sit in third place in the MIAA.  Kalamazoo was led by the dynamic attack of first-year players Anika Sproull and Anna Dariaghi, who both netted three goals apiece.

Fellow classmates Thania Stavropoulos and Alivia DuQuet also tacked an additional two goals each in the loss.  Calvin maintained their dominance throughout the first half as they entered half time leading 11-4.  While the Hornets played the Knights evenly in the second period, they were outshot 40-25 and only converted on one of their five free position shots to Calvin’s five of their eight.

“Going into that game, we knew Calvin was ranked pretty high in the conference,” said senior starting attacker Marissa Dawson following Saturday’s loss.  “We came out pretty flat at the beginning of the game, but once we realized we needed to step it up, we played really even with them.”

The Hornets then fell on senior day to rival Olivet, as they again dug themselves into an 8-4 hole in the first half from which they were unable to recover from.  Senior Holly Cooperrider co-led the team in goals, scoring two in her final game.  First years Stavropoulos, DuQuet, and Sproull joined her by finishing a pair each.  Kalamazoo dominated Olivet on the stat sheet, outshooting the Comets 37-26 and 22-16 on ground balls controlled.  However, they struggled again from the free shot position going 2-9 from the hash.

Kalamazoo wraps up what turned out to be a disappointing run, going 5-10 on the season with a seventh place finish in MIAA play.  While the Hornets will miss the playoffs in their inaugural season, the future looks bright for the very young team.  They return their top six goal scorers from 2014, including the midfielder Sproull, who racked up 52 goals during the campaign, good for fourth in the MIAA.  First years Nicole Huff and Anna Dariaghi will be back as well, both coming off 20-goal seasons for Coach Emilia Ward’s team.

“For a first year program, the things we accomplished this year are amazing,” said Dawson.  “This team has great potential so we set our goals really high.  I think that in the next couple years or so, this team is going to rise in the ranks of the conference.  I really wish I was staying around to play because I have that good feeling about this team and this group of freshmen who are going to be leaders moving forward.”

The Hornet Lacrosse family says goodbye to seniors Holly Cooperrider, Rachel Fine, Crestina Pacheco, Anna Eshuis, and Marissa Dawson.  They all played their final game Sunday against Olivet.

Lacrosse Team Opens MIAA Play with Win

The Women’s Lacrosse team huddles up before the game against Saint Mary’s last Wednesday.

By Spencer MacDonald

The Kalamazoo College Women’s Lacrosse team won their conference opener against St. Mary’s on Wednesday 16-9, however, dropped their second contest on Saturday at Alma by a score of 12-8.

Coach Ward and the Hornets handily dispatched the first-year program of St. Mary’s, breaking a 4-4 deadlock with a three-goal run to end the half. Kalamazoo outscored the Belles 9-5 in the second half en route to the program’s first win in the MIAA. Seven different Hornets found the back of the net including first-year midfielders Anika Sproull and Nicole Huff, who combined for 10 of the 16 goals.  The Hornet defense came up with another strong performance, forcing 21 St. Mary’s turnovers to Kalamazoo’s 10.  Sproull was once again a key-player for the Hornets, tacking-on 8 goals in the contest to add to her second best in the conference goals-per-game average of 3.5.

“It was a huge first game to win,” said Sproull.  “We’ve been practicing for months now and went on a spring break training trip before this game, which has really helped us play together as a team.”

Kalamazoo followed up Wednesday’s win with a close loss at Alma College on Saturday.  The Scots, who were projected to finish second in the MIAA, outshot the Hornets on a close margin of 21-19, but held a steady lead throughout the second half after a close opening period.  Huff led the scoring for Kalamazoo with 2 goals and Sproull, Marissa Dawson, Clare Jensen, and Alivia DuQuet all beat the Alma keeper for one goal apiece.  While the two teams were relatively even in shots, Alma had 16 ground ball pickups to the Hornets eight and 11 draw controls to eight. The Scots were able to answer almost every Kalamazoo goal with a goal of their own, stemming any potential runs quickly.

Although the season is still young, the Hornets are positioned well in the hunt for a top-four finish and MIAA playoff spot.  They currently sit tied for fourth with both Alma and the Knights of Calvin College.  Even with the loss to Alma, the team remains extremely optimistic about their chances in conference play and the opportunity for a postseason run.

“We’re still in a good spot,” said Sproull following the defeat.  “Coach Ward told us that we’re only allowed to lose to Alma and Adrian in conference so we’re on pace there.  I think we might surprise some people against Adrian.”

The Hornets will get their opportunity when they return to action to take on first-place Adrian College on the road on Tuesday, March 18.

Weather Delays Long-Awaited Start for Lacrosse

By Spencer MacDonald

As the Kalamazoo College Women’s Lacrosse team begins their long-awaited, inaugural season, Head Coach Emilia Ward is not only optimistic about the Hornet’s chances in the MIAA, she is down-right confident.

After coaching the club team in 2012-2013, Ward is back leading the now varsity team in her second year. The young Hornets team was slated to finish fifth out of nine teams in the MIAA, despite having yet to play an official contest. Ward is looking to shrug off the mantle of being a new program and has great expectations for her young, but talented team.

“We’ve set our goals pretty high,” said Ward. “We want to finish top four in the conference so we have a shot at winning the conference championship. A lot of the teams are relying on youth, so we have high but realistic expectations of getting into the tournament.”

Coach Ward began her athletic career as a basketball player and began to pick up the game of lacrosse during high school. The native of Farmington Hills, MI also coached basketball but chose to pursue lacrosse in college, where she both played and coached during her time at Manhattan College in the Bronx, NY.

“I wasn’t quite tall enough to play college basketball,” said Ward with a smile.  “Lacrosse took over that void. Its one of those sports where once you catch that bug, you just go for it.”

Ward is no stranger to building up new programs. She helped former Adrian College coach John Sung start the varsity women’s lacrosse team at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, which is now in its second season after finishing with a winning record last year.  Prior to that, she spent three years as an assistant coach at Adrian from 2008-2011, where the Bulldogs went 40-12 under her tutelage.  Adrian comes into the 2014 season as the favorite to win the league, posting an undefeated record in conference last year.

“Starting up a program is all about having realistic expectations,” said Ward. “I focused a lot last year on getting to know the campus community to really get a gage of what type of kids would fit here.”

This season, the Hornets will field a team of 21 players, 11 of them being freshmen who will all play a pivotal role in Kalamazoo’s success.  The midfield line, led by first years Anika Sproull, Nicole Huff, and Anna Diaraghi is considered by Coach Ward to be one of the most dynamic in the league, while the defense is bolstered by the tenacious play of first years Allia Howard and Nicole Prentice. Senior Holly Cooperrider, former Hornet basketball player and current defender and captain on the lacrosse team, recognizes the importance of the incoming players to the team’s success.

“They basically are running the show,” said Cooperrider. “It’s a lot to put on them, I know, but they probably will be playing most of the minutes because they were recruited for this.”

The players themselves are very upbeat for the upcoming season and the opportunities that the team has in store. The MIAA women’s lacrosse conference is only in its fourth year of existence and many of the schools have only had a varsity team for one or two years. This leaves the door wide open for the Hornets to not only make some noise in league play, but also make a run in the conference tournament.

“We’re going to make the playoffs this year,” said Nicole Prentice. “Our practices are full of energy and we are all very competitive. I definitely see us finishing top four.”

Kalamazoo is not only looking for short-term success but also to lay the groundwork for years to come. The Hornets have a very unique opportunity to start manufacturing a legacy during their first season that will continue through the team’s existence. Both Coach Ward and especially the older players on the team recognize this and look to make the most of it in 2014.

“We want to grow our culture,” explained Cooperrider. “We are starting history from scratch compared to all the teams here at K that already have a reputation. We have the chance to create our own.”

What would have been the Hornet’s first game against Defiance College on March 1 was cancelled due to weather, so the team now prepares for a weekend showcase in Chicago against Benedictine on Saturday, March 8 and Aurora on Sunday, March 9.  Kalamazoo will then host Augustana, who won the Midwest Women’s Lacrosse Conference and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2013, on Thursday, March 13 for their first official home match.