Only a few games into the season, the Saint Leo Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse teams are looking strong and confident early in their season. Both teams have been successful in recruiting new talent, while keeping most of the key players. In a team sport like Lacrosse, however, the coaches need to establish a team culture of excellence in order to thrive in a very competitive Sunshine State Conference.
The men’s team seems to be stronger than ever being ranked at number 15 in the entire NCAA Division II. Beating the number seven ranked team, LIU Post, in the first game of their season put the Lions on the map. Onto the next game they continued their winning streak against Chowan University and Coker College. It was not until Mar. 4 against second ranked Limestone College that the Lions lost their first game of the season.
“The team’s success is based off of dedication to each other. This team is different than any other previous teams in a way that we believe in each other and are willing to make each other better every day. We have been focused on preparing for our opponent no matter who it is. Limestone got away from us but the win against LIU post was due to hard work and focus,” said Chris Burke, who is a senior with a major in multimedia management.
In their four games of the season, the Lions scored 63 goals, while averaging almost 40 shots on the goal. The two Juniors, Kyle Pauwels and Jake Gilmour, and Sophomore Charlie Kurtenbach are the stand-out scorers for the Lions. Pauwels was able to score 16 goals in the four games, while having a scoring percentage of almost 70.
“Our goals this season are to play each opponent the best we can and let the rest take care of itself. If we do what we know we can we will be in good shape. I’m not worried about the things we can’t handle,” Burke said.
On the women’s side, the team seems to be more motivated than ever after having a rough season last year. Women’s Head Coach Lesley Graham recruited new talent to fill the key positions that the team needs to succeed. With ten new freshmen, the team started off their season with a massive 21 to two victory against Newberry College.
“The team has been working very hard in our off season [fall] as well as our preseason this spring. They focus on conditioning, stickwork, and game plan development so that they can be ready to face even the strongest of teams. The goals for the team this season are to win the conference championship. We compete in a very hard conference with Florida Southern being the defending national champion so the team is focused on making it the conference title game,” said Graham, who is the first women’s lacrosse coach at Saint Leo University.
After losing their second game against number seven ranked Queens College the Lions celebrated their home opener on Mar. 1 with a big win against Wilmington University from Delaware. On the following weekend, the team continued with games against Gannon University and Fort Lewis College, of which they lost the first game, but took the win in the second game.
So far the team has been successful through the great teamwork. The 75 goals that the women’s team scored in their five games so far were scored by 13 different players, showing the teams depth. Top scorers have been Freshman Sabrina Sanacore, Lexie Walstad, and Sophomore Leslie Ferguson with eight goals each, while Junior Katherine Larson was able to score ten goals.
“In order to achieve our goals the team needs to stay focused and push themselves and each other to be the best they can be every day. The season can get busy with games every other day combined with practices, lifts, film sessions, study hall, classes, and so on, so it’s critical the team keeps themselves focused on the bigger picture of what they want to accomplish—winning the conference title,” coach Graham said.
The Lions Pride Newspaper will keep you updated as the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams will continue their season with ambitious goals.