It’s only fall and the Stanford lacrosse team has only trained together for a short time in preparation for a season that begins officially in February. But this weekend is significant for the Cardinal.
On Saturday, Stanford plays defending national champion North Carolina and NCAA semifinalist Syracuse, among other opponents, at the Navy Fall Invitational.
On Sunday, the Cardinal plays the U.S. national team in a game that will air nationally on ESPN3.com from the Stars & Stripes Tournament in Towson, Md.
The Navy tournament is a 15-team affair, and includes eight NCAA tournament teams from 2012. Stanford is among them.
The Cardinal opens against North Carolina (10:30 a.m. ET, 7:30 a.m. PT), and follows with games against Delaware (11:30 a.m. ET, 8:30 a.m. PT), Syracuse (2:30 p.m. ET, 11:30 a.m. PT), and Boston College (4:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. PT). Only Delaware did not reach the NCAA tournament last year. Also, games will be 45 minutes long.
“It’s a great opportunity for our freshmen to get in right away and start to understand the speed at which the game at our level is played at,” Bokker said. “Syracuse and UNC are known as two of the fastest teams in the country.
“Playing those four high-caliber games in one day gives us an opportunity to get better throughout the day and work on different things that we’ve been working on at practice.
“Definitely, we won’t be results focused. We’ll be working on things that we’ve been working on in practice and put them into place, and try them against opponents who are going hard and fast and compete at a high level.”
On Sunday, Stanford heads to Towson University. Stanford will be one of four 2013 NCAA tournament teams that will play the U.S. national team that weekend. The others are Navy, Georgetown, and Towson.
Stanford opens against Towson (9:30 a.m. ET, 6:30 a.m. PT) and concludes with the U.S. (11 a.m. ET, 8 a.m. PT). It will mark the second consecutive fall that Stanford has met the U.S. Last year, the U.S. team played at Stanford.
“It’s awesome for our players to put themselves against the best,” Bokker said. “Quite a few have aspirations of playing at that level. It’s good for them to see what it takes to get there. They’ll get a really good sense of the high level of play, and it can build a lot of confidence if you can make a play or score a goal a goal against the best players in the world. “
The connection between Stanford and the U.S. team is Bokker, who recently extended her duties as a U.S. assistant coach through the team’s 2017 World Cup run. She helped the U.S. to the 2013 World Cup title.
Bokker will be scrambling to some extent. Her priority for the weekend will be her duties for the U.S. team, which means she will be on the U.S. sideline when the national team plays Stanford.
The weekend will serve many purposes, including this one: “It’s important for our program to show that we’re willing to put ourselves up against the best,” Bokker said.
Plus, the exposure from ESPN certainly will help get the word out, particularly to the East Coast, that Stanford, winner of eight Mountain Pacific Sports Federation titles in nine years, is a rising power in the sport.
Stanford will return home for its alumnae game (Oct. 19), and the Stanford Play Day, involving six schools in a series of short games on Oct. 26 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The fall season concludes Nov. 1 with an intrasquad matchup (4 p.m.).
Stanford is coming off a 14-6 season that featured the program’s first NCAA tournament victory – an 8-7 triumph over Notre Dame. Stanford’s Rachel Ozer and Anna Kim are returning IWLCA All-Region players and were among six Cardinal named to the All-MPSF team.
So far, Bokker has been impressed with how the team’s five seniors –Kim, Ozer, Megan Lerner, Lyndsey Munoz, and Nina Swanson – have taken on leadership roles. Among the freshmen, Kelsey Murray and Elizabeth Cusick have been especially impressive.
“This will be a test to see how everyone fares, how they do against this high level,” Bokker said. “It will be really fun for us.”
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