April 4, 2013

State of Union is Strong; Dutchwomen in NCAA Hunt

by Mark Macyk LaxMagazine.com

Brittany Fraser (above) and her twin sister, Heather, attended a youth camp staffed by current Union coach Abi Jackson when Jackson was at Williams. They were all re-united when Jackson was hired at Union.
© Union

Union had No. 14 Ithaca seeing double during Tuesday’s 14-13, come-from-behind victory in Schenectady, N.Y.

Ithaca had put the Dutchwomen in a substantial early hole, but twins Heather and Brittany Fraser combined to score Union’s last seven goals, and the game’s final five goals. It was the best collegiate game the senior duo has played and a culmination of a couple of talents coach Abi Jackson first noticed when the Frasers were second graders at a Williams College summer camp.

“When I first got hired [at Union] one of them came up and said do you remember us from camp?” Jackson said. “There are always a couple of kids every summer that really stand out and make you remember them. The twins were little tiny girls and they worked so hard. They were super excited to be there.”

Now as college seniors they're tied for second in scoring for Union and have the Dutchwomen in the hunt for an NCAA tournament spot. The funny thing is, Jackson didn’t recruit the Fraser twins. When they arrived on campus, Jackson was still the coach at Roger Williams. 

This is Jackson’s third year on the Union sideline. During that time she has brought in a plethora of talented underclassman, pointing Union toward a bright future. But it’s those that were here before that have the Dutchwomen excited for the present.

Union (2-3) starts eight freshmen and sophomores, so having the steady hand of experienced upperclassmen is imperative.

That means the offensive prowess of the Fraser twins and the vocal presence of junior captain Micaela DeSimone on defense. DeSimone started every game as a freshman, so she knows what everyone’s going through.

“She has walked the path that they’re walking now,” Jackson said. “She’s an intense player. Very direct. There are no ‘me’ statements. She’ll point to someone and say, ‘We need to continue’. She’s very matter of fact and all business on the field, but at the same time she’ll go up to a freshman line defender and help her through the rough patches.”

And, perhaps most importantly, there’s the steady hand of senior Tory Cameron on the draw.

Never were the older players more relevant than during Wednesday’s victory over Ithaca (4-4). The Dutchwomen fell quickly into a 6-0 hole. At halftime they trailed 6-2. They came out of the break as different team, executing rides and finishing shots. 

The upperclassmen were right there in the thick of it. The Fraser twins delivered five goals in a row. Heather finished with five goals and one assist and Brittany had four goals. Cameron won the draw control that set up Heather Fraser’s winner. Cameron was playing through an injured quad.

“She was drawing against a girl that must have had five inches on her,” Jackson said. “She took the draw and just skied it up with one hand, controlled it and drove her feet out. She did it perfectly That’s exactly why she’s there.”

The Ithaca victory came in non-league play and it could provide a boost to Union’s NCAA tournament aspirations. They had a similar come-from-behind win against a tough non-league opponent last week against Oneonta. The non-league wins could come in handy. The Liberty League is once again wide-open and Union is already 0-1 thanks to a one-goal loss to William Smith. The Dutchwomen saw last season that those one-goal losses can add up.

Union headed into the final game of last year’s regular season needing a win to lock up the No. 1 seed and the opportunity to host the Liberty League Tournament. It lost by one to RIT and dropped to fourth place. It’s that kind of conference.

“It’s gonna come down to the wire again this year,” Jackson said.

Wherever this season ends up, the future is bright for Union. The Dutchwomen’s go-to scorer remains sophomore Emily McGrail (18 goals in five games), just like it was last year. But if the upperclassmen continue to play the way they did on Tuesday, that future could come a little bit early.

Mark Macyk has covered Division II and III women’s lacrosse for Lacrosse Magazine since 2011. He can be contacted at markmacyk@gmail.com.

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