Author: Kara McVey
Though they’re only a few practices in with new coach Michele Uhlfelder, it’s already clear that women’s lacrosse is in for a very exciting year. This is due largely to the team’s newly earned varsity status, which guarantees more challenging competition, more committed players and some much-needed funding from the athletics department. With these notable advantages, and with Coach Uhlfelder’s guidance, the team, led by co-captains Emily Phillips (senior) and Natalie Morison (senior), is ready for victory.
The team is excited for a new coach who will lead them through a successful season. “She’s a really good teacher,” player Lauren Wemple (first-year) said. “She’s calm, cool and collected, but she also like to joke around.” Most importantly, Wemple said, she is showing the players how to listen and apply the things they learn.
Uhlfelder brings an impressive résumé: She played lacrosse for the NCAA Division I team at the University of Maryland and later joined the USA National team. During this time, she was chosen to be a member of the First Team All-America, and she was the National 1991 Offensive Player of the Year. Since then, she has acted as assistant coach at Duke University and head coach at Stanford. She brought Stanford’s team into the NCAA’s National Top 20, making it the first school on the west coast to achieve this honor, and the lacrosse ladies hope to follow soon.
Oxy students aren’t the only ones benefiting from lacrosse’s new varsity status. Varsity status grants women’s lacrosse access to the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (SCIAC). In order to be eligible for recognition by SCIAC, there must be a minimum of five varsity teams competing against each other. Before Oxy attained varsity status, the only other Southern California teams with varsity women’s lacrosse were the University of Redlands, Pomona-Pitzer, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Whittier – which left the region one school short of SCIAC recognition. Oxy’s addition as the fifth varsity women’s lacrosse team is an important accomplishment for all five teams.
The team is ready for the onsalught of new competitors. “We are up against some competitive teams in Division III, but I fully expect the Oxy Tigers to rise to the challenge under the leadership of our captains and new coaching staff,” said player Annie Wolfstone (junior), who achieved Western Women’s Lacrosse League Division II All-League recognition last season.
After helping women’s lacrosse achieve this coveted SCIAC endorsement, Oxy was recently invited to take part in an intercollegiate lacrosse conference to start its initiation into the world of varsity competition. On Saturday, Nov. 14, the players had the chance to mingle with other teams, introduce themselves to potential rivals and check out new lacrosse equipment. Luckily, this year the players don’t have to frantically fundraise in order to afford new equipment. Between the support of the athletic department and donations from assistant coach Jacqueline McDevitt (a former DeBeer Lacrosse representative), the team has already received team shirts, protective gear and lacrosse sticks.
With these various new boons, women’s lacrosse has stepped up its game from previous years in preparation for new competition. Wolfstone said that, although the players were highly dedicated to lacrosse as a club sport, they have risen to the challenges presented by their new varsity status. “The professionalism of the team has increased across the board. Freshman and seniors alike realize the gravity of the shift from club to varsity.” This means in addition to practices with Uhlfelder and McDevitt, the players have spent many hours over the past five weeks conditioning and weight-training with assistant baseball coach James Rise. According to Wemple, the coaches have “really focused on the building blocks: breaking down old habits . . . and working on new ones.” The players are working hard to make sure they’ll be ready to compete against the best SoCal teams when the season starts.
The players are confident that by the time the team faces its first match of the season in late February, they’ll be ready to tussle with the rest of the SCIAC teams. The players have already put large amounts of time and effort into team consolidation, especially considering the influx of first-year players, transition to varsity status and acclimation to Coach Uhlfelder.
Although there’s still a lot of work left to do, the team has high hopes for the season, and Wolfstone is confident that no matter how it unravels, the season will prove to be an important one. “I know we will build a strong foundation for the future of women’s lacrosse at Oxy,” she said.
The women’s lacrosse first game is on Feb. 24 against the University of Redlands.
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