February 27, 2014

WD3 Notebook: Generals Trust in One Another

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Margaret Klein delivered the winning goal in overtime against Christopher Newport) and leads the Generals with 10 goals. (Washington and Lee)

There’s a 50-foot Alpine Tower rising into the atmosphere behind Washington and Lee’s back campus. It’s designed for leadership training and can hold 36 participants at once. They tell you right away that, on this multi-rope obstacle course, climbing is not a solo sport.

So it was a perfect spot for the W&L women’s lacrosse team to get in some offseason training.

“When someone’s belaying you 50 feet in the air,” said W&L coach Brooke Diamond O’Brien,” “you learn to trust them.”

Which is a key for the Generals this year. One season after what O’Brien called a “perfect storm” of events -- injuries, early-season suspensions, her own maternity leave during fall ball  -- led to W&L’s lowest win total since 2000, the Generals are back. They’ve opened the season at 4-0 against teams they went a combined 1-3 against last year.

And while the Generals ended up fourth in the Old Dominion Conference, before rallying to win the conference tournament and reach their 14th NCAA tournament, last year, they're not concerned about being fourth, or first, or 17th -- which is the spot they’ve climbed to in this week’s LM rankings -- this time around.

For Washington & Lee, it’s all about being No. 3.

“Our team motto is ‘I am third,’” O’Brien said. The program, and all the history that goes with it, comes first. Teammates, the players who have your back on the field or on the climbing wall, come second. Then, if there’s time, you can worry about yourself. 

“Your wants and need come after everyone else's,” she added. “That sets the tone for where selfishness belongs, which is really nowhere.”

The unselfish attitude started in the offseason when the captains -- Leanne Stone, Meade Brewster, Olive Waxter, Cara Mulligan -- made it clear that last year's season of General disarray would not be repeated.

“They stayed committed regardless of the troubles we’ve had,” O’Brien said. “They came in with a lot of clarity and focus. From Day 1 there’s been a clear expectation. Everything from what we do at practice to how we carry ourselves off the field. They’re seeing the results.”

The results started with an overtime victory over perennial NCAA tournament team Christopher Newport. The Captains scored to force overtime with five seconds remaining in regulation, but the Generals didn’t back down. Margaret Klein delivered the winner in overtime and W&L hasn't played a close game since. Klein is tied with Greta Witter for the team lead with 10 goals.  

“From the very first day she came in and blew our fitness test out of the water,” O’Brien said. “You can see that in how she defends. She has a confidence about her.” 

The Generals haven't come close to losing since. This weekend’s showdown against No. 5 Franklin & Marshall will once again be a battle between two of Division III’s top programs.

It seems everything is back to normal in Lexington.

Fifteen different Generals have recorded points, including six freshmen and one player who wasn’t there last year.  Witter, a senior who has 10 goals and a team-high four assists, is back after spending last year in London. Mulligan, a captain at goalie, is holding early opponents -- three of which play in the mighty CAC -- to six goals per game.

And they’re all making a point to laugh at least once during every practice.

"We're still at the beginning," O'Brien said. “We’re just really happy to back to playing W&L lacrosse, which means working hard, having fun and enjoying it.”

Looking Ahead

Saturday No. 8 Colby at No. 2 Trinity, noon

Colby hasn’t defeated Trinity since 2009, but it’s not as if the Mules haven’t been trying. They’ve come within two goals of the Bantams four times since then. Trinity has lost just one regular season game since 2011. These teams are always close talent-wise, and the early-season meeting -- it's the first game for both teams and comes just two weeks after NESCAC teams started practicing -- could even the playing field even further.

Game Balls

Jillian Donodeo, Oneonta: The junior out of Sachem East (N.Y.) scored two goals in the final 2:05 to lift the Red Dragons to an 11-10, come-from-behind victory at West Coast power Redlands on Friday. The All-SUNYAC midfielder finished the season-opener with four goals and two assists. She added a goal and three assists the next day to help Oneonta complete a perfect California road trip with a 21-12 win at Chapman.

Bridget Kenny, Gettysburg: The junior attacker from Gladstone, N.J., was the star of Division III’s first Top 20 showdown of the young season, tying a career high with five goals as the sixth-ranked Bullets shot past No. 19 Stevenson, 15-6. The victory also saw Gettysburg senior Loren Pruitt put up four goals and move into ninth place on GC’s all-time scoring list.

Caroline Krohn, Franklin & Marshall: The senior got No. 5 Franklin & Marshall’s season started by scoring the first two goals in what became a 19-13 victory over No. 20 Brockport. The former All-County player at Towson (Md.) ended up with four goals and three assists and subsequently took home Centennial Conference Player of the Week honors.

Miscellaneous: No team had a rougher schedule to open the season than Stevenson. The Mustangs, who lost to Gettysburg, 15-6, and Salisbury, 8-6, remain in the Top 20, because there’s no shame in losing to Gettysburg and Salisbury. And that two-goal deficit against Salisbury was closer than anyone played then Sea Gulls in last year’s regular season. Stevenson has another Top 20 shot on Saturday against Brockport...  Lebanon Valley ended last year with three wins in its final four games and then nearly stunned No. 12 York in this season’s opener before falling, 11-10, in overtime. York rallied and scored the final three goals of the game, including Erica Mulford’s winner in overtime. Lebanon Valley bounced back and beat Shenandoah two days later.

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