By Canio Marasco
After starting the season against the ninth-ranked Northwestern Wildcats, the Canisius women’s lacrosse team will continue their impressive non-conference schedule with a trip to the west coast to play the Oregon Ducks.
The Griffs started their season off with a tough game against Northwestern. Despite the Wildcats being the favorite and one of the best teams in the country, the Griffs were able to play a closely contested game, losing 9-7. At no point were the Griffs down by more than two goals and, in the dying moments on the game, they had a real chance to win.
Playing highly ranked teams and big schools has been a key feature of the Griffs’ non-conference schedule. The idea of playing these upper-echelon programs, the Griffs will soon rise to their play and have a better chance of beating them in the NCAA tournament. This is the exact reason the Griffs are traveling to play the Ducks – they want to take the Griffs’ program to the next level, and that can only be achieved by playing the best.
“A win against anyone causes your confidence to grow – that’s why you play sports and the game,” Coach Scott Teeter said. “Oregon is a good team and they have a great athletic department. A win would definitely be a statement win for the program.”
Oregon, unlike the Griffs, won their first game of the season. The Michigan Wolverines, a team Canisius will also play this season, lost largely because of their performance in the first few minutes of the game. The Ducks were able to take a 3-0 lead quickly, forcing the Wolverines to play from behind. The Ducks held a 7-4 lead going into the halftime and were able to coast for the entire second half, earning an 11-8 victory. The Ducks got solid scoring production from sophomores Shannon Williams and Julia Taylor, along with senior Bella Pyne, who all tied for the team lead in points (3) in the win.
Despite not having played each other, the two teams do have a bit of familiarity. Coach Teeter and Oregon’s head coach, Katrina Dowd, both coach Canada’s national women’s lacrosse team. Dowd serves as an assistant to Teeter.
“They have a new coaching staff, which I’m very familiar with – [ Dowd] is on my Team Canada staff as one of my assistants,” stated Teeter. “We know a little bit of tendencies. But we’ve never played Oregon before, so we don’t know too many of their players, and they’ve only played one game, so you can only do so much scouting. When you have that, it’s more just focusing on our play and our system.”
As the Griffs head into their game against Oregon, the ranking of the two teams may seem surprising. Despite the Ducks winning their first game and playing in a big conference, the Pac-12, they are ranked 46th in Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The Griffs, a team that lost to Northwestern and play in a generally uncontested conference, are 35th. Notwithstanding these rankings, it’s tough to call the Griffs the favorite; they’re traveling a fair distance to the west coast and will be playing one of the better teams in the country.
“They’re a good team. I wouldn’t say there is a favorite or underdog in this game,” Coach Teeter said. “The west coast travel is new for us; we haven’t really had an opportunity to do that. There is a potential with USC and Stanford being top-10 teams now, they could host in the NCAA tournament, so it’s a good trip for us to get under our belt.”
“At this point, I don’t really see it meaning anything,” junior midfielder Erica Evans said about the upcoming game with Oregon. “We’ve only had one game and they’ve only had one game. I think we’re about equal; I wouldn’t say we’re better than them.”
Calling the Griffs and the Ducks equal, as Evans did, is rather fair. Both teams were able to score and play adequate defense in their first games. Concurrently, both teams struggled in the same area – draws. The Griffs went 1-for-17 on draws in their game against Northwestern, while the Ducks went 5-for-16 against Michigan.
“Watching [Oregon’s] game against Michigan, it was a little bit similar to us. They just got outworked on the draw,” said Coach Teeter. “It wasn’t that we didn’t have the opportunity to get our fair share of them. We just didn’t pay the price and do the dirty work to get the ball. A lot hit our sticks and we didn’t get it; sometimes we were first to the ball and bobbled it.
“Great teams like Northwestern will make you pay, and I think Oregon had a similar experience in their game. Their coaching staff is going to be doing the same thing we did. It will be an area of focus and something we’ve worked on all week.”
With both teams being so similar, the little aspects of the game will likely make the difference. One of the aspects is how the game starts. The Ducks were able to score three unanswered goals against Michigan, which forced the Wolverines to play catch up.
“Starts are key. Anytime you can start the game with some momentum your play grows from there. I think we need to go in there and be ready from the first draw,” Coach Teeter said. “If you’re ready, but don’t score the first goal, then it’s how you respond…. I think a quick response is important. Against Northwestern, we gave up a goal 20 seconds in, but we responded with two goals. A good start is just as important as how you finish the game.”
The Griffs’ game plan will largely focus on improving on draws, winning 50/50 balls and starting the game well. Coach Teeter mentioned several times that the Griffs simply didn’t do the dirty work needed to win ground balls and control the draws.
“We just need to play our game plan,” Evans stated. “We need to come out hard. Last game, we didn’t do a lot of things we needed to do. This game could really be a step in the right direction. Oregon is a good team, with a good coaching staff and players. But I think if we play our game, we’ll have a good shot [at winning].”