by Robert Janish
Senior Sports Writer
After a convincing 25-11 win over the Siena Saints at the Demske Sports Complex on Wednesday, the Golden Griffins will travel to Monmouth University to take on the Hawks in a rematch of last season’s MAAC Championship game, which the Griffs won.
It was also in the matchup against Siena in which junior Erica Evans set the program record with 155 career goals, passing Megan Oosting and Tori Quinn, who is currently an assistant coach for the team. A landmark achievement in a conference matchup, it will help set the tone going forward this season.
Currently 3-0 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, this is perhaps the team’s most important game of their conference schedule due to the magnitude of opponent they are facing in Monmouth.
Senior Ashley Bull said there was a week to prepare for Siena and what the team should focus on throughout the game.
“We had a good grasp on the team we were playing and we came out yesterday and had a really good game,” she said on Wednesday’s game, which included an 8-0 run that led to their 25-11 victory. The team began preparing for Monmouth on Thursday.
“We have another day tomorrow to help us prepare for them, then we’ll turn around and go out and play our game,” Bull said.
Head Coach Scott Teeter noted that in their win over Siena, the team set a school record of 25 goals.
“We also pushed the tempo a little bit, so it was a different style of game that we haven’t shown,” he said, and added that even though the team gave up 11 goals, “when you play that style, it’s risk vs. reward.”
Junior goalkeeper Rebecca VanLaeken said the team played against Siena and was able to do exactly what they needed to in order to be successful. She said one of the focuses of Thursday’s practice was shooting and letting her see shots. She also said that in Friday’s practice, the team would likely focus more on the systematics and game plan specifically.
Teeter said that putting up such a high amount of goals is always a positive for the team, and that hey had about four or five players that had four, five or six goals, contributing to a solid team effort.
With a much shorter break than the team has been used to this year, Bull said mental toughness is key since they only have a couple days to do a quick turnaround.
“It’s going to take a lot of mental toughness and focus,” she said. She added how it’s important for players to take care of their bodies and be ready to play.
“We just have to maximize our time in practice,” VanLaeken said regarding the challenge of having just two days to prepare for a tough team. “If we come in and stay focused, we’ll be fine.”
Teeter said the team is currently going through a rough spot in their schedule and that each win, regardless if it was a blowout or close game, matters, with the end goal of hosting the MAAC championship.
“It was good, we had some of our role players coming off our bench and score,” he said, adding that when a team plays that well, confidence grows. “Defensively, we were able to focus on two areas that we need to clean up and we did that today in practice.”
Monmouth, although 2-1 in conference play after an overtime loss to Fairfield, is one of the top teams in the MAAC and is also coming off two days rest, which will be interesting for the matchup itself. The game against the Griffs is a must-win for them in order to have a chance at hosting.
“They’re going to throw everything and we’re going to see their best,” said Teeter.
Bull said it was important to play a home game during the week for both academic and athletic reasons and can also help bring down stress.
“It gives you time to take care of that and focus on the midweek game,” she said.
VanLaeken said the team’s coaches do a good job of scouting and preparing the team for each game, telling them what the other team’s tendencies are and who their key players to focus on are. She credits Coach Teeter for creating game plans for each team and how to use his systems to beat the opposition.
Bull said this team is very unselfish and that’s a credit to every member of it. “We know that working together is what’s going to make this team click and what’s going to make us successful,” she said.
The main role that Bull has is taking the draw, which is crucial to improve on each practice game.
“(VanLaeken) is our rock in net and she makes sure that she has our back every game,” Bull said on support from all facets of the team.
VanLaeken described each member of the team as “a puzzle piece that fits together perfectly.” As goalkeeper, she has worked on becoming the team’s defensive leader.
“I’m not just saving the ball,” she said. “It’s clearing, it’s knowing the defenses that we’re going to run that game and it’s being able to expand my knowledge on the game and be able to be that rock for the team.”
Bull added that it’s always important to earn a MAAC win on the road and set the tone for the season.
“We’re coming into a huge road stretch right now,” she said. “It’s going to be tough but at the same time, when we come back we’ll be mentally focused and making sure that we’re doing what we need to do to prepare for each game.”
VanLeaken said their next few games are crucial and will be against some of the top MAAC teams. Playing those games on the road this year will be a good test for them.
“I think if we can get through each of those, it’s just going to help us that much more when we have the MAAC championship,” said VanLaeken.
Teeter said no matter who the opponent is each game, it’s important for the Griffs to always play their best and send a message through their play.
“The expectation is to go in there and play well and win the game.” he said on overcoming adversity throughout the game. “It’s how you handle the situation and how you respond.”
The Griffs will begin a road stretch this weekend in which they will play three of their next four games on the road. These games will determine the type of team this year’s women lacrosse team will be, as they look to continue their recent success by going on the road and facing last year’s MAAC runner-up in Monmouth.