“It was really intense. We did a lot of mixing of lines and gave players equal time, and I was pleased with how some people stepped up and how the freshmen went after the challenge.”
EUGENE, Ore. — Lacrosse season may be more than three months away, but for the University of Oregon preparation began in earnest at the beginning of October.
“This fall was designed to acclimate the freshman to Division 1 Lacrosse and give them a little bit of practice to prepare them for tough competition,” said Jen Larsen, now in her fifth year as head coach. “It was really intense. We did a lot of mixing of lines and gave players equal time, and I was pleased with how some people stepped up and how the freshmen went after the challenge.”
It’s difficult to simulate regular season conditions, but the Ducks planned travel and scheduled competition on a level to give the newcomers a taste of what they can expect come February.
“We had east coast travel and we also had conference play, because that’s what we want to prep them for,” Larsen said. “I was pleased to see the freshmen handle it so well. Overall, It was a good, successful fall.“
2009 signals an important milestone in the evolution of NCAA women’s lacrosse at Oregon as the first class of Ducks will complete their college eligibility. Fifth-year senior captains Anna Poponyak and Cara Mead represent the final members of Larson’s foundation for the program.
“I would say this year is as challenging as four years ago, when we first had that first class coming in,” Larsen said. “What’s nice and different about this year is we have three classes that have already competed in Division I, so their practice level is much more intense and they play at a higher level.
“Also we have leaders on our roster right now, who are showing the freshmen on a daily basis what it means to be on the field.
The Ducks began ‘Fall Ball’ back east, taking on Maryland and Loyola in back-to-back games in early October. Nothing like getting back into game shape against a pair of powerful programs to start your practice season.
“Our heads were spinning at that point,” Larsen said. “Those teams are both very high caliber, and ones we are striving to be like. We wanted to be on the field with them to see how much further we need to go.”
The next day it was off to the State of Virginia to face James Madison as part of a fundraising event.
“We were actually able to regroup ourselves rather quickly,” Larsen said. “We witnessed better play by the Ducks – a lot more competitive – but we were still trying to get used to that higher pace. You’re not really keeping score in these types of events, but we needed to execute a lot better.”
The Ducks returned to Eugene and were immediately able to apply some of the lessons learned from the road trip to practice. Over the course of the next two weeks, the upperclassmen and newcomers started to blend together and become a team.
Oregon finished off its team workouts with a trip to Stanford and the Bay Area. Against the Cardinal, both teams agreed to add a third period after two running halves to provide the freshmen with more exposure.
“I just started the freshmen, and they did awesome,” Larsen said.
The final day of competition took place at Cal, where Oregon trained against St. Mary’s, UC Davis and Cal. After a long bus trip home, Larsen deemed the weekend a success.
“We saw some quality stuff from our team. The freshmen came away with an understanding that they are Ducks now, and they are expected to play at the same level as the rest of their teammates.”
Oregon opens the 2009 season at home on Feb. 7 against Stanford.