The University of Richmond women's lacrosse team is scheduled to begin its season on Sunday, under the direction of first-year head coach Stephy Samaras.

The Spiders were picked to finish third in the Atlantic 10 Conference this year in a preseason coaches' poll. Last year, the team finished second in the A-10 with a 5-2 conference record and a 6-12 overall record. The team won A-10 titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The Spiders' first four games this season are against Atlantic Coast Conference teams: the University of Maryland, Duke University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia.

The Spiders lost five starters from last season, but are returning seven. Six freshmen joined the team this year as well.

Samaras, who was a two-time All-American at the University of Virginia, said she had been preparing the Spiders by working on fitness and team cohesiveness.

Samaras said she hoped this season would show a different side of Richmond lacrosse, especially the team's fitness level. The team has been doing a lot of running and honing its defense and offense, she said, as well as working on a couple new defensive schemes.

"I don't think it's going to wow other teams, but it's going to limit other offenses' options against us," Samaras said. "Offensively we are going to be able to get more attackers involved, and hopefully our scoring options are going to be spread across numerous attackers instead of just a few."

Junior captain Bria Eulitt said the team had also been working on communication.

"As long as everyone is on the same page, you're bound to have success on the field," she said.

One of the philosophies Samaras is bringing to the team is tough love, she said.

"The girls are experiencing a lot of it," she said. "I know they have the capability to go to the next level. It's a matter of taking them there."

Eulitt said the transition to a new head coach had been very smooth.

"This season is going to be a lot more positive," she said. "We have such a strong group of extremely talented girls. Everyone on the team is invested in seeing us do well."

The Spiders' season is set to begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday on Crenshaw Field against Maryland. The game was originally scheduled in College Park, Md., but the build up of snow resulting from several significant winter storms forced the coaches to relocate the game to Richmond.

Although Richmond's astroturf is currently under several inches of snow, the team has been shoveling all week to clear the field in time for the game.

Contact reporter Anna Kuta at anna.kuta@richmond.edu