Beth Robinson photo – Girls Lacrosse, Delaney Little on the “draw.”
By David Miles
Team unity is often a goal that coaches strive to achieve during preseason practice to carry over into the season. This year’s girl’s lacrosse team is taking that one step further in an effort to create not only team, but program unity
After a disappointing – and decidedly atypical for a strong program like Woodstock – season in 2010, Hannah Nichols has taken control of the reins this year. (Last year the team finished with its first losing record since 2005 and only the third time they have been under .500 in over 15 years.) Nichols describes herself as more of a field hockey coach than a lacrosse coach, but she has been coaching lacrosse on some level for nine seasons now. Most recently she has been coach of the middle school program, but she also has prior experience at both the junior varsity and the elementary school levels.
In addition, Nichols has assembled what she describes as a “fantastic” coaching staff. It begins with junior varsity coach Jenn Calver. Calver learned the game here in the Woodstock area and played on the school teams before leaving for Holderness Academy during her high school years. She then went on to play collegiately at Trinity College.
And taking over for Nichols with the middle school girls is former Woodstock player Jenna Ware. Ware also played in college at Merrimack before she was forced to give up the game in order to secure and maintain employment during her college years.
Because the girl’s program has 2 and ½ hours in the Union Arena every day, all three teams are using it to practice together, rather then dividing it into smaller chunks of time. With 18 varsity players, 13 on the junior varsity level and 21 from the middle school that is usually over 50 girls at once, but they are focused and well-drilled by their individual coaches as they work on different routines and skills. Indeed to watch them in action, with one group engaged in a shooting drill, another passing and a third running is to observe brilliant choreography at work.
And as they move through the season, Nichols intends to build on this concept of program unity. Now the players share the locker room and she notes that the middle schoolers are not intimidated by their older brethren. But to foster this unity even more, she plans to develop mentor roles for the varsity players with the middle schoolers to allow the more experienced student-athletes to pass on some of their skills by teaching the younger players.
Nichols is very happy with how the team cohesion has developed thus far during the early weeks of practice. Calver notes that the girls also have a “good work ethic” that has helped this to come together quickly. And Nichols comments, “They want to learn the game. They definitely want to know how to play better.”
Team captains this year are center Katie Murphy, midfielder Felicia Neuhof, and attack Stephanie Harrington. Fellow seniors Meg Emmons, Jen Leggett and Maya Tracey are back as well.
There are only a pair of juniors on the varsity team – Summer Carvalho and Aria Robinson – but a large contingent of eight sophomores. The tenth grade brigade is comprised of Sam Harrington, Christy Harris, Delaney Little, Asa Waterworth, Emma Astbury, Ana Haimovitz, Lauren Horsmen and Amber LaFlamme. Two freshmen, Annie Arthur and Caitlyn Lowe will also be playing with the varsity team this year.
In addition sophomore Jocelyn Ware just arrived back from KMS and is joining the team. She may well play at the varsity level as well once she gets up to speed with her teammates after missing the first two weeks of practice.
The junior varsity team players are juniors Annie Koch, Anna Sand and Ashley Vutech, sophomores Alexis Blanchard, Kelsey Harrington, Nicole Stone, and Erin Tortalano, and freshmen Kiah Clark, Meg Gray, Miranda Holson, Elizabeth Kamb and Karli Weinberg. A full eight of these 12 players are new to the game of lacrosse and Nichols has been pleasantly surprised at how these rookies are “coming along so well,”
Woodstock is a Division II team that will play a schedule that is about 85% Division I opponents. So the team’s goal is to “make this a positive, to use it to get ready for the D-II Tournament,” according to Nichols. Calver adds “We do have high expectations.” Since they will be playing many of the top teams in the state they only expect to get better as the season moves on and they begin to prepare for tournament play.
The weather has hampered team development somewhat thus far. Even though “we are lucky to have this wonderful facility” notes Nichols, “it is not perfect for lacrosse.” She was glad to have one scrimmage with KUA to get the team outside.
The scrimmage ended in a 2-2 tie and it reinforced some of the observations that the coaches have made about their charges to this point. Nichols feels that her defense is furthest along now and will be a strength of the team this season. Goalie Astbury played well, with ten saves, in the scrimmage and defenders Emmons, Carvalho and Harris were strong too.
The offensive effort and the transition game were a little “rusty,” according to the coach, which is not surprising considering the small size of the indoor practice facility. There is only so much work that can be done in that confined space on those aspects of the game.
With about 30 players participating at the high school level, the team is up 5-6 players from last season. The middle school numbers are also up significantly from 11 to 21. That is a promising sign as the new coaching staff attempts to rebuild the proud tradition of Woodstock girl’s lacrosse.
The girls opened at Rutland on Tuesday and their lack of outdoor time showed in a 15-4 loss to the Raiders. Two captains – Neuhof and Stephanie Harrington – both scored twice for the Wasps. Harrington also assisted on one of Neuhof’s goals. Tracey had an assist in the contest as well.
Woodstock is now off until an April 14 game at Hartford and then has a long two-week break when Hanover come to Woodstock for the first scheduled home game on April 28.
This article first appeared in the April 7th print edition of the Vermont Standard, Woodstock VT.