After a fitness test, which head coach Ann Elliott jokingly dubbed “everyone’s favorite,” to open practice on Monday, the team is now focusing on fundamentals, including stick work, passing, shooting and defensive stance. In five-on-five scrimmages, the players not only get to work on their individual skills, but also their communication and teamwork.
The team feels they learned a lot from their fall scrimmages, where they got to play against some big name East Coast teams such as Navy, Boston College and Delaware, and get a feel for what their spring season would bring.
“Fall was a great experience for us,” Elliott said. “We got to play a lot of top teams from across the country, and it gave our kids a good sense of what Division I lacrosse is like and the level you’ve got to come out to compete at not just every game, but every second of the game. I think from that, our kids really took that if they put in the effort that they can compete at that level. I think they started to believe in themselves a little bit. That’s really exciting. That’s what we’re going to grow off of early on this season and in the first month.”
Katie Carroll, a sophomore from Arnold, Md., and the only Buffalo with prior DI experience, says that working together will be key to their continual growth.
“You can’t be successful in this sport as an individual,” Carroll said. “It’s all about working together … I think our biggest focus that we’re going to carry from the fall into the spring is really just working together as a team and building that strength and unity.”
That unity is especially important with such a young team, built around 21 freshmen and two sophomores. Elliott says that the team has to tune out any outside expectations, be it from parents, the media or opponents. She wants the team to focus on the day-to-day, encouraging the team to leave the field feeling like, “We did get better. We’re better than we were yesterday.” She believes that combined with the focus on teamwork will help create a successful spring.
“With 23 kids that are not only new to our program, but new to playing together, it’s really important that we focus on teamwork,” Elliott said. “We realize that for us to be successful, it’s going to take 23 kids, and we need them all backing each other up and working together on the field. We do a lot of stuff with them where they’re able to compete in small groups and get to know each other a little bit better. As we go through the day-to-day practice, they realize that if one person is making a mistake, it’s not just about that one person; it’s about the 22 other people too. They need to be supporting her and figuring out a way that we can be successful.”
Carroll says that while some opposing teams, especially the more established lacrosse schools, might view their squad as a “little high school team,” the Buffs view their youth as an advantage. With their athleticism and toughness, Carroll believes that they will play beyond their years and play harder than people will expect them to. She adds that their goal is to not just be a good young team, but to be a good team in general.
“I think a lot of teams in our conference and out of our conference are going to be pretty shocked to see us play,” Carroll said. “I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with this season, and it’s really exciting.”
That “underdog mentality” is a driving force for the team as they build the program from the ground up, setting the foundation for the future and, as freshman midfielder Marie Moore states, working to “show everyone what CU lacrosse is all about.” The best way to do that is by living up to their motto for the season: “Be uncommon.”
“We’re doing something no one has done before,” Moore said. “So (coach) tries to put passion in us and ‘be uncommon’ is our team motto.”
Carroll says that being uncommon is what will help them make their mark against established programs. Every player brings something different to the table – different personalities, different strengths and weaknesses. Their character and general excitement to play truly helps them be the first of their kind.
“We don’t have to do things the way everybody else does,” Elliott said. “We’re going to do things the way that’s best for our program, and we want them to push themselves every day to get better and to be the best that they can be.”