By Beau Brockett Jr.
In 2015, the women’s lacrosse team secured their first MIAA Tournament win, beating Calvin College 11-10. In 2016, the team finished first in the MIAA in record but lost to Calvin in the tournament finals, 12-11. However, it is not coach Shanta Loecker’s goal for Albion to be the best in the conference this season; rather, she sets objectives for her players in the day-to-day, whether in practice or in games.
“We very consistently set goals that we know we can accomplish over the course of a certain amount of time,” said Loecker. “For example, when we get ready to play a game, we don’t get into the game with the goal of winning game. We go into the game with specific goals, such as getting a certain percentage of the ground-ball controls.”
Both Loecker and Emily DeWaters, the assistant coach, know that specific visions like these will help their players win, but that is never the main objective. According to Loecker, focus on winning, and you won’t. It is why she intentionally created a challenging non-conference schedule. Rather than obsessing over a strong record, her players can instead focus on the improvements they are making everyday.
Loecker took over as head coach of the women’s lacrosse team after a no-win record in 2012. In four years, the team ended their 2016 season with a 10-7 record. Working on communication, positive body language and treatment of teammates is what Loecker believes leads to success.
The players have similar sentiments. When sophomore midfielder Ariella Ruiz of Glendale, California, joined the team, she expected straightforward lacrosse. What she found was outside of that realm. She found a great experience and a “phenomenal group of girls” whose bond lead them to a successful seasons last year.
“We work super hard on being incredibly cheerful and supportive of one another, and that comes with communication,” said Ruiz. “We’re going to have our hard times and difficulties, but overcoming that is going to help us succeed,” she added.
Ruiz’s personally wants to focus on the bigger picture of her sport, realizing that what she does on the field might make up for someone and vice versa. If one player is falling behind, the whole team lags too.
With a young team of four freshmen, four sophomores and seven juniors, everyone is placed on an even playing field, said Ruiz. Yet, each woman brings something different to the team.
“I think we’re one of the closer teams on campus, actually from what I can see. We do pretty much everything together, from practice, to eating, to watching meetings,” said Caitlin Gaitley, a junior from Grosse Pointe, Michigan. “We even do laundry together sometimes. So I think we have a pretty good bond. We get to know each other really well, which definitely translates on the field.”
An attack leader, Gaitley’s personal goals are team-oriented much like Ruiz’s, a reflection of the mentality the team inhabits. She wants to focus on keeping energy and positivity high, whether in practice or in games. She hopes she and her team can continue to become more cohesive and understand how everyone plays so they can better understand each other on the field.
The team may need this collective understanding. Loecker is looking forward to a spring break trip to Tennessee where the team will play Sewanee and Meredith Colleges, and both teams have played in the NCAA tournament.
Gaitley, though, is most looking forward to playing Calvin at home on April 8. They’ve always been Albion’s biggest threat, but after 2016’s tight tournament loss, the sophomores and juniors are looking for a bit of redemption.
The lacrosse team is currently 0-1, having lost to Wittenberg University this past Saturday 23-8. Their next game will be against Meredith College in Sewanee, Tennessee. The Britons will play their debut home game at the Davis Athletic Complex on Sunday, March 26 against Franklin.
Photo by Beau Brockett Jr.