The members of UConn women’s lacrosse hope that Thursday will be a historic day for the program. UConn will make their third straight appearance in the Big East playoffs when they face the No.2 seed Georgetown Hoyas. A win would not only be the Huskies first ever in the Big East playoffs but also the first victory over Georgetown in program history.
An inconsistent first half doomed the Huskies in the last meeting between the two teams on April 15. A second half rally fell just short and UConn lost 13-12. UConn’s young guns had a great performance in defeat. Freshmen Grace Nolan and Kelsey Catalano combined for five goals.
“We’ve gone over a lot of videos with the team to see where we can make specific improvements,” said Head coach Katie Woods. “I think it starts with the draw. We definitely need to make sure we’re staying in front, stepping out and boxing out. That gives us a valid opportunity to gain possession of the ball.”
Thursday might be the official start of the postseason but UConn has been playing do or die games for the past couple weeks. A monumental comeback against the No.8 Florida Gators on April 18 gave the Huskies control of their own destiny with one game remaining. A week later, UConn punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 14-11 victory over Villanova in Philadelphia.
Despite already playing with high stakes, the playoffs always seem to go to another level. Woods understands how the playoff atmosphere can affect play but if everything goes well she hopes it won’t be much of a factor.
“The hope is that the team will stay relaxed, come out and just get into it a little bit. The fact that we’re at home and we’ll have a home crowd will make it feel hopefully like a normal home game.”
Win or lose on Thursday, what UConn has done this season has opened eyes nationally. Though UConn never broke the top 25 in the IWLCA poll, by the end of the season they were garnering votes.
Numerous players had strong seasons for the Huskies and fruit of their labor were given to them this week. UConn collected four regular season awards. Grace Nolan was given Rookie of the Year after her 24-goal season, Woods and her assistants were given Coaching Staff of the Year and defensive linchpins Shannon Nee and Lauren Kwasnowski were also honored.
Kwasnowski has been the difference between UConn being a great defensive team and a really good one. The defender finished first in the Big East in caused turnovers and ground balls. Nee’s play in net only adds to the defense. Nee finished with the top save percentage in the conference and her goals against average put her in the Top 30 in the nation.
Coach Woods’ mantra has often been that any player at any given time should be able to step up when called upon. With the talent up and down the roster it’s easy to see why she has the confidence she does. Georgetown should have trouble containing UConn’s numerous scoring threats. Combine that with UConn’s stonewall defense and Thursday holds a great chance of UConn advancing to the Championship.
“This team is seasoned. We’ve been in the tournament a few times now,” said Woods. “They understand the excitement of this but they also understand the pressure of it. This team is more prepared than the last two (appearances). Our older players have this experience and even our younger players have the experience of big games.”
The conference semifinal between UConn and Georgetown begins this tonight at 7:00 p.m., at the George R. Sherman Family Sports Complex.