The women's lacrosse team launched into its Atlantic 10 season this weekend, beating Temple University on Friday and losing to the University of Massachusetts on Sunday.
The team finished out-of-conference play on March 20 with a loss to Towson University, 23-12. But, the Spiders beat Old Dominion University and Longwood University, something they did not accomplish last year, head coach Stephy Samaras said.
"I think that gives us a lot of confidence going into the A-10s, which I think is pretty exciting," she said.
The team also played bigger schools with well-established lacrosse programs, including the University of North Carolina and Duke University, Samaras said.
"We actually performed very well against teams like Duke and UNC in the first half of the game because I think we were playing out of excitement and emotion," she said "and as we progressed through those harder games the reality of our skill level sort of came into play."
The goal is to take the highlights of those games and play that way throughout the entirety of the conference games, junior captain Bria Eulitt said.
"We're not focusing our energy on the losses, we're focusing our energy on what those games have taught us," Eulitt said. "I think we struggled a little bit at the beginning, but these past nine games we've learned how to play with one another and we've learned each other's tendencies."
The team's focus intensifies during conference play, Samaras said.
"It lights a brand new fire under everyone's butts, which is exciting because we can shift gears and steam roll through another aspect of our schedule that is different to a lot of teams," she said.
Richmond's schedule, which groups all its A-10 games at the end of the season, is unusual compared to the schedules of some larger schools, such as those in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Samaras said.
"For us, it's really great," she said. "We get to have these pump-up games that prepare us for our second clump of games."
Richmond finished third last year in the A-10 conference and the team is predicted to place third this season as well, according to the A-10 Web site.
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"I think we need to prove not only to ourselves, but to everyone else, that we're much better than that," senior captain Erica Marrocco said.
The team is also adjusting to a new coaching staff, made up of Samaras and assistant coach Jill Albee.
"I think the team has come together very well considering what they've been through," Samaras said. "Our fitness regiment was completely amped up and their bodies are constantly sore now."
Both captains are pleased with the new coaching staff, they said.
"The transition has been really smooth," Eulitt said. "We're always going to have ups and downs, but overall it's just such a more positive atmosphere than it has been. They're so recently out of college, too, so they know what it's like being a student-athlete and they're very flexible."
The team dynamic has greatly changed from that of last year's squad, Eulitt and Marrocco said.
"I almost want to say that we have more drive," Eulitt said. "I feel like the freshmen that we brought in are so gung-ho and they're always concerned about what they're doing to help the team. They've challenged us as upperclassmen, which has made everybody play harder for their positions on the field."
Samaras named several players that she thought would make an impact on the field this season.
"Bria Eulitt and Mary Flowers in the midfield have been constant forces for us," she said. "I think Dani Schaevitz on attack has really stepped into her leadership role and has been able to do a lot for us."
Samaras also predicted that Marrocco, the starting goalie, would have a strong season based on her earlier games.
"It's going to be very refreshing to see her playing against A-10 teams," she said.
The Spiders will take on the George Washington University Colonials at 3:30 p.m. Friday at UR Stadium.
Contact reporter Leigh Donahue at email@example.com
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