GEORGETOWN, Texas – Earn it. Two words, six letters. It doesn't seem like much but it encompasses the vision of Head Coach Matthew Grosso's women's lacrosse team as they embark on their first season as a varsity sport.
Coach Grosso has been molding this team from the ground up for the last year and half and on Friday, February 7th, at 7 pm all of his hard work will be realized as the team takes the field for their first game.
After a short, 15 day fall season SU got a glimpse of the future as the Pirates fell 14-10 to the University of Texas Club team that has dominated the Texas Women's Lacrosse League in year's past.
Following winter break Southwestern was able to build from the solid foundation of the fall season and picked up without missing a beat. "The team surprised even the coaching staff with how far along they are," said Coach Grosso. "They have come back prepared, focused and ready to go which has allowed us to focus on strategy instead of having to teach everything from the ground up."
Despite it being their first year, Coach Grosso has a team ripe with talent and experience ready to take the field. "We have a very strong midfield and excellent attackers, many of which came from the club program," said Coach Grosso. "We have speed and athleticism all over the field which will make us tough to play."
"As an attacking unit, they are going to cause a lot of problems for opponents as they can't just focus on one player. Everyone can score, and do so in a variety of ways, and they do a great job of looking to share the ball and set each other up to be successful."
Controlling the draw will be a key to Southwestern's success this season and, thankfully, Coach Grosso has players that excel in the draw control circle. "In the women's game the draw control is so critical because if you win the draw you control the pace of the game and possession," stated Grosso. "We have some newcomers who can win the draw regularly and we are excited about that."
"We also have some club players who play both sides of the field very well and a few others who are extremely quick and can push the ball up the field while running some fast breaks and slow breaks."
Defense, while lacking in experience, can be the real difference maker as the season progresses for SU. "We have a great goalie and, while our defense is young, they are working hard and are athletic which allows us to do some interesting things defensively to surprise our opponents."
Coach Grosso hopes to capitalize on the relative anonymity of this team at the beginning of the season, surprising teams with their level of competition. "I think most teams are going to look at us as just 'that first year team from Texas' and overlook us and the fact that we have some really good lacrosse players on this team," said Grosso. "Many new programs are comprised of athletes from other sports and we haven't had to do that here. We have 20 lacrosse players that will surprise people."
The first team to take on the Pirates is Hendrix College. A newcomer to the varsity women's lacrosse scene also, one team is going to leave with their first ever win after the contest on February 7th. "For a lot of different reasons this is a really important game for us. Our paths cross on the recruiting trail frequently and I want to make it very clear that the best team in this region is Southwestern," said Grosso.
"Also, having the first game on campus is a big deal. I want this community to feel like the women's program has been a great addition to the Athletics Department and University as a whole. I want our fans and high school athletes and coaches to come to a game and feel that we are for real. That we look good, play well and mean business."
Hendrix is part of a five game home stand to open the season for Southwestern. They also face relatively new programs the University of Dallas and Augsburg in addition to well-established and historically successful programs in Colorado College and Eastern.
Southwestern then heads to Oregon for three teams that Pirate fans may get to see a lot of in years to come in George Fox, Pacific and Linfield, before returning home to face Goucher and Western New England in mid-March for their final home games.
The biggest statement game opportunity for the Pirates comes at the end of March as Southwestern travels to California to face Whittier College and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. "CMS is one of the best teams in the West and if we can play them well and find a way to win two games…that could send some ripples throughout the lacrosse world," said Grosso.
The NCAA National Tournament is on the table for the Pirates in their first season even without an automatic bid. With a heavy west region schedule, Southwestern can give themselves at seat at the table for an at-large bid come May with a few statement wins and a 10+ win season.
Southwestern's focus continues to be on earning the respect of others and just moments at a practice or game fans will be able to feel their passion and eagerness to be competitive. They are ready to make the most of the opportunity that has been presented to them.
"It has been a great experience for me building this program," said Coach Grosso. "The team is incredibly hardworking and coachable. They want to be good and are proud about who they are and what they want to accomplish. We are going to compete this year."