BY MELISSA TORRE
The women’s lacrosse team has used the past two years of their existence in the NCAA as a learning experience to build a foundation for a successful future. This year’s squad looks to put UTampa on the map this year as they begin their third season.
Last season ended with a lopsided 22-7 defeat against Florida Southern College, capping off a lackluster 5-11 overall record that included a 0-4 in Sunshine State Conference (SSC) play.
Looking forward to this season, the team has been focusing on improving the “little things” in their game, says head coach Kelly Gallagher, in hopes of making a big difference in their overall play out on the field. Some of the key areas the team has been working on during the offseason including drills that involve touching the line, getting around the cone and following directions.
“We have been focusing a lot on our lacrosse skills, but we’re also very lucky to have coaches who are helping mold us as young women with valuable lessons on lots of different topics. Specifically, this far into our season we’ve been talking about what it means to empower one another,” senior defenseman Amanda Parker said.
The team came back to campus a week before classes to begin their preseason workouts. The team as a whole picked up the pace and intensity during the offseason, says Gallagher.
“Last season was difficult for us at the end. We ended and stopped playing lacrosse way too early. And I think our returners really took that to heart, so I think they went home over the summer and worked really hard, and are still working hard,” she said.
Unsurprisingly, the ladies spend a considerable amount of time together off the pitch, seeking to build chemistry on a personal level. There is a solidified leadership group within the team that facilitates team-building and growth activities. They often get meals together before the games, and hold pasta parties the night before big games.
“We’re a lot closer off the field, which makes it that much easier when we’re on the field,” said sophomore captain Shannon Sweeney.
The team also took it upon themselves to adopt an eight-year old girl named Rowan as a team-bonding experience through the organization Team Impact. They take time out of their personal lives to come together and support Rowen, by going to her soccer games together and having pizza parties with her.
“Rowan is a special part of our team. We love to see her beautiful smile. She inspires us with her energy, kindness and humor. Rowan is a unique little girl who we love to spend time with on and off the field,” junior defenseman Alexis D’Amico said.
As far as potential breakout players go, junior attacker Amanda Voges ended last season on a positive note for the team and has continued to show signs of growth during the offseason. Last season, Voges started all 16 games for UT, totaling 49 goals on only 93 shots as well as 13 assists overall (0.81 per game), good for 11th in the SSC.
“She’s become such a great leader for the team. She definitely keeps the girls accountable. I think just leadership-wise she’ll be great for us, but she’s also an excellent lacrosse player,” Ryan said.
Junior defensemen Alexis D’Amico is another key player who has shown major growth during the offseason according to Ryan. D’Amico started 12 games for the Spartans last season, serving as the backbone for the Spartans defense and caused five turnovers.
“She’s been working on her footwork, and she’s really improved… this is going to help our entire defensive unit have success this spring because she will be able to match up against some of our opponents’ most skillful attackers and shut them down,” Ryan said.
The Spartans prepare to face off against one of their most challenging opponents this season during the team’s home opener on Sunday, Feb. 7 against Rollins. Rollins not only won the SSC last season, but they were also ranked No.1 in the preseason rankings. Ryan said that the biggest key to the Spartans’ winning this game is them remaining focused and disciplined.
“We’re learning new offensive and defensive schemes, so I think just staying consistent and disciplined with those aspects [is the main focus],” Ryan said.