The field hockey team usually spends time writing down goals during the preseason, but this year it didn't have to.
"It's just been said, 'We've got to bring back the Atlantic 10 crown,'" coach Gina Lucido said. "There's been no other talk besides that because that's the only thing that matters. ... words only go so far, and as we've seen, most of the time they don't go very far."
When the team's seven seniors began their careers at Richmond, they helped the Spiders win a fifth-straight conference title. But, the past two seasons, Richmond has lost to the conference champions - the University of Massachusetts - during the semifinals in 2007 and the finals in 2008.
This year's conference tournament is at Massachusetts on Nov. 6 and 7, and the Spiders want revenge on their rival's turf. More than 10 of them trained on campus this summer for four weeks during May term, and four of them stayed for the entire summer to prepare for the new season.
"This year we're ready to take it," senior tri-captain Megan Thompson said. "I really want the younger girls ... to actually be able to put that ring on their finger and I want to get another one."
Senior Becky White, another captain, said she wanted the players to have another A-10 title to prove to themselves that they could do it. The team had to rebuild when Lucido started at Richmond in 2007, White said, and the past two years have been important.
"It's definitely taken time but I think that will just make it all the more rewarding," White said. "For us as freshmen, not everyone had a huge role in [the championship], but this time it's going to be ours."
Lucido likes to challenge the team against tough opponents, but said she knew it was also important to make sure they stayed confident. She said she hoped that if Richmond played well this season, it would be able to become one of the top 20 ranked teams for the first time since 2006.
The new season began last weekend with the team's first home games, a 2-1 loss to No. 14 American University on Saturday and a 3-2 loss against Indiana University on Sunday. American is one of five teams the Spiders will face this season that also competed during last season's NCAA tournament.
"I think that the girls can compete with anybody in the country," Lucido said. "I think [the tough schedule] last year was definitely a wake-up call for us in realizing just how hard we have to work to be at that elite level. But at the same time, that it's attainable, that the team could be there if they're willing to put the commitment in for it."
When the preseason conference poll came out this summer, Richmond was ranked third of the seven A-10 teams. Lucido e-mailed the story to the team.
"If we even needed more motivation for wanting to reclaim the legacy of the past, I think that it's there," Lucido said. "Clearly, people don't think you're near the top yet. That comes back to my whole thing of action. Well, we can do it on the field this year, just show everybody that we're not a third-ranked team in the conference."
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Last season, the Spiders opened conference play against Massachusetts, but this year the teams don't play until Oct. 23, the fourth conference game. The Spiders will finish the regular season at Temple University, which is seeded second in the conference behind Massachusetts, on Nov. 1.
"Not to say that the other teams in the conference aren't tough," Thompson said, "but it'll be really good to warm up [before Massachusetts and Temple] and get ready to just go after them."
One of the most exciting parts of the preseason, the captains said, was the play of the six freshmen. Some of the freshmen are already competing for starting spots, and Lucido said one parent watching practice had been unable to tell who the freshmen were. Thompson said Lucido was good about not emphasizing class rank.
"In practice it's nothing for a freshman to call me out for giving her a bad pass," Thompson said, "and that's great because we all hold each other accountable."
Another positive part of the preseason was Ryan Elliott, who played and coached in Northern Ireland and is in his second season as Lucido's assistant. Each coach works with one positional group - Elliott works with forwards, while Lucido and assistant Jodi Murphy work with the midfielders and backs.
"We are going to play definitely a fast pace and an aggressive style of trying to get into the goal and generate a lot of chaos," Lucido said. "I think it should be fun because I do expect to score a lot of goals this year and have a pretty potent attack."
The Spiders will begin a four-game road trip this weekend when they travel to New York to play Columbia University and Hofstra University. During their most recent matchups, the Spiders lost to Columbia and beat Hofstra.
"As long as our minds are all in the right place - which has been a problem for us in the past, being able to switch on when we need to - as long as we can do that," Blythe-Wood said, "I'm not worried about anything. I think we can take it to both of them."
When the Spiders return from their road trip - which ends with games against Drexel on Sept. 11, and Princeton University on Sept. 12 - nine of their next 10 games will be at home, and Blythe-Wood said that could be a huge psychological advantage. The captains said they hoped that fans would come to those games and give the team a good home crowd.
"Just watch for us," White said. "We're going to be good this year."
Contact staff writer Barrett Neale at email@example.com
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