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March 17, 2010

The Loch-Down: Vandy Back in Mix After Slow Start

by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Sophomore Ally Crey has seven goals and seven assists in six games for Vanderbilt, which is ranked No. 14 in this week's IWLCA Division I poll.

© John Russell

I love it when a plan comes together.

But sometimes it takes a while.

At least that was the case for Vanderbilt this season. The Commodores kicked off 2010 with a No. 11 ranking from Lacrosse Magazine and lots of hope for the coming season. Then they got off to a 2-3 start, with the two wins coming over unranked opponents and the three losses coming by a combined score of 45-25. By early March, it was already looking very different from the year Vanderbilt had envisioned.

“We had very high expectations coming into the season. With athletes, 90 percent of the game is mental, and I think our team was just a little tight going into the season. Potentially, the expectations were almost too much,” says head coach Cathy Swezey.

It wasn’t that they didn’t have the talent. The Commodores returned senior All-Americans Sarah Downing and Alex Mundy, plus they had sophomore breakout star Ally Carey, one of the most complete midfielders in the game. But it just wasn’t coming together. There was a spate of minor injuries, a few off-field distractions and the coldest winter Nashville has seen in years.

Then, all the losing.

“It just seemed to make them a little angry and a little tougher, and it turned a switch,” said Swezey.

The lights came on Saturday, when No. 19 Vanderbilt, desperate to keep a foothold in the top 20, upset No. 9 Boston University, 10-5. The Commodores raced out to a 6-0 lead and never trailed. Their reward: a No. 14 ranking in this week's IWLCA Division I poll.

“It was one of the best 60-minute performances I’ve ever coached, and it was right when we needed it,” said Swezey.

Carey kicked off the 6-0 run with an unassisted tally and led all scorers with two goals and assist. Even more impressive than their offensive output was the Commodores’ defense. No one had held the Terriers’ vaunted attack to just five points since Penn did so in the 2008 NCAA quarterfinals.

Much of the credit for that goes to sophomore goalkeeper Natalie Wills (no relation to Team USA goalie and Denver assistant Devon Wills), who made 13 saves.

Ultimately, Vanderbilt’s slow start won’t define its season. Those three early losses came to Duke, North Carolina and Stanford.

“You can play a Duke or a Carolina early on and maybe they haven’t found their flow yet, and you catch them early. But they played really well and we weren’t up to it,” said Swezey.

After the buoyant BU win, Vanderbilt feels up to anything. The Commodores play Louisville on Wednesday and on Saturday begin their American Lacrosse Conference play in Happy Valley against Penn State.

News & Notes

The official opening of Loyola University’s new Ridley Athletic Complex occurred on Saturday, when the men’s lacrosse team lost, 8-5, to Duke in the pouring rain. The women’s team fared much better yesterday, blowing out Rutgers, 18-6, in beautiful weather. The Greyhounds got off to a 9-0 start and never looked back. Junior attacker Mary Henneberry scored the game’s first three goals, plus two more, to lead all scorers… Duke (7-1) held on for a 10-8 win over Georgetown on Saturday, a victory that bumped them from No. 6 to No. 3 in the IWCLA polls. Blue Devil junior Christie Kaestner got a hat trick; her sister, senior Hoya Ashby Kaestner had two for Georgetown. The Hoyas dropped to 2-2 after the loss to Duke. …No. 19 Hofstra broke into the rankings with a 10-9 double overtime upset of No. 20 Rutgers. Freshman midfielder Jill Maier got the game-winner; it was her only goal in the game and just the third of her entire career.

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