The University of Richmond women's lacrosse team has high expectations of capturing another Atlantic 10 championship this season, but two players have even loftier goals.
In August, senior attacker and midfielder Mandy Friend and freshman attacker and midfielder Caitlin Fifield tried out in Boston for the Canadian Women's World Cup lacrosse team and have made it to the final 24 players. Eighteen players will make the travel team that will head to Prague, Czech Republic, next June for the World Cup, Fifield said.
Friend and Fifield will travel to Boston Oct. 3 to compete during the weekend for the 18 spots. They will play area teams such as Boston College, Boston University and University of Massachusetts, Friend said.
"Then in February we have one more, and that's where we find out the final 18," she said.
Fifield, Friend and Friend's younger sister Abbey, who, at 16, is the youngest member of the team, are attempting to make the team from the United States. Their fathers have Canadian citizenship, which makes them eligible to play for Team Canada, she said.
"I had heard about it ever since I was younger from my coaches," Friend said. "Once I got into it and realized it was great timing for the World Cup team, I heard from my coach that the Canadian coach was interested. On a whim, me and my younger sister tried out together, and Caitlin came up [to try out]."
Fifield also took advantage of her opportunity to play for Canada.
"I was talking to my parents about it because my dad's Canadian and figured out that I could actually try out," she said. "I just thought I have nothing to lose, so I might as well give it a try."
Canada's style of play is much different than Richmond's because Canadian lacrosse is played indoors, so Friend and Fifield have had to adjust, Friend said.
"It's a faster game inside so you have to do a lot of different stick work," she said. "We need to figure out if we can fit into their game. That's what we have to work on is changing the way we play to work with them and figure out what our strengths are."
Friend and Fifield are also focused on the Spiders' coming season. After winning three consecutive A-10 championships, Richmond lost last year during the A-10 semifinals to University of Massachusetts. That loss kept the Spiders out of the NCAA tournament and they lost their top-25 ranking.
"When you saw that scoreboard tick away, that's something you're going to remember forever," Friend said. "Every time we step on the field, it's something that we can take with us to push ourselves a little harder. I just know that will make us better and that will help us rebound."
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The team begins its non-traditional season tonight. These games are the equivalent of preseason games, which will help them prepare for a tough season against opponents such as University of Maryland and the University of Virginia, coach Sue Murphy said.
"We are looking to put ourselves back on the national scene," Murphy said. "Unfortunately last spring, we fell out of our national ranking and had gotten as high as No. 9 in the country. We've got some work to do. We want to reclaim our Atlantic-10 berth in the NCAAs and we want to reclaim our national ranking, and we are going to do that with a very, very young squad. We have a fantastic group of young players who are really vying for the lineups."
The Spiders have 20 underclassmen on a team of 29, Fifield said. But Friend said the youth of the team had been a source of energy for the Spiders.
"The girls are just so athletic, and they are just always so eager to learn about everything and catch on really quickly," she said. "Coach obviously knows how to bring in people who can really fit right into our program. There's just so much intensity and so much competition between everybody that they've really brought such a great spark."
The first game of the team's fall season is tonight at the College of William and Mary.
"With William and Mary, we're hoping to have a great start where we want to come out and show people what this new class is bringing and that we are not letting last year affect us," Friend said.
Friend said she had high expectations for the year, her last as a Spider.
"We need to have the best season we've ever had," she said. "We came into this program that was built and that was successful. We need to give it back to the program."
Contact reporter Stephen Utz at firstname.lastname@example.org
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