by Isabel Marhoun
The spring season for UT lacrosse is in high gear. Both teams are practicing hard to defend their championship titles. In the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Preseason Poll both the men’s and women’s teams were picked to win the conference title. Being ranked No. 1 means that all eyes are on them this season and they have a target on their back.
“In the preseason we are focusing on getting better,” said men’s head coach, Rory Whipple. “We had a great scrimmage against DI Jacksonville. Since then we have been working on our defense to prepare for the season. We have two more weeks and in these two weeks we want everyone to get used to playing with each other.”
Their first game will be against Queen’s University on Saturday, Feb. 8. Whipple commented on how this game will be a big first game for them even though it is against an out of conference game.
“Our biggest competition will certainly be the conference teams,” said Whipple. “Everyone in the conference is out to get us since we were picked No. 1 for the seventh year. The game against Queens will be another big game seeing as it is our first and they are ranked second in their conference.”
The men’s lacrosse program at UT has won the SSC championships for the past six years. Their goal for this season is to make it into the NCAA National Division II Tournament and hopefully win it all.
Senior midfielder, Ross Dickerson, commented on what he hopes the season will bring.
“[We are] striving to be better than we have ever been,” said Dickerson. “We have won our conference the last six years. The guys before us have set a certain standard that must be upheld. Mediocrity is unacceptable. We don’t really have many weaknesses. We are looking to be the best team in the south and hopefully represent our school in the national championship.”
As Dickerson mentioned, the past six seasons have truly set a precedent of greatness for the team to achieve. They are hoping that this year will be no different from the previous years and they are going into the season hungry for a winning streak.
Junior attacker, Colin White, said he thinks the season is going to go well.
“We have had a great fall and preseason and are looking to continue that into the season,” said White. “Preseason we really just focus a lot on our chemistry on the field and becoming a team. We think that is a very important part of having a successful season.”
The team has been extremely focused on their goals in the preseason and team chemistry is a big part of this. The team wants to be a cohesive unit on the field and in order to do this they need to trust one another and have good communication.
The women’s team is kicking their season into high gear. This season they have big expectations seeing as they are the number one pick in the SSC. Head coach, Kelly Gallagher, said she is excited for the season to start.
“I’m excited for the 2020 season,” said Gallagher. “I can’t wait to see what our team accomplishes, we have a lot of talent and it’s going to be a great year,” said Gallagher. “[We’re focusing on] conditioning and building our offensive and defensive systems…and trying to have a little fun. We were fortunate to add some additional scrimmages this January so, it’s not all practice and we can see how we stack up against some great programs.”
During the preseason, the women’s team scrimmaged against the University of South Florida’s club lacrosse team, Jacksonville, and Saint Leo. Scrimmages helped to see where the team was at and how they sized up on the field compared to other teams. Gallagher described the SSC as having some extremely good competition.
“In my opinion, I believe that we have the strongest conference in the country,” said Gallagher. “So, every conference game will be a difficult one. Rollins and Florida Southern are consistently in the SSC tournament championship and the NCAA tournament. But I really don’t think we can overlook anyone.”
Rollins was ranked second in the SSC Preseason Poll and Florida Southern was ranked third. This makes them big competition for the Spartans. But the team is definitely confident about how the season will pan out for them. Junior and attacker, Lauren McNeill, is confident going into the season.
“We are really excited for this season, we have a lot of talent all over the field and as long as we work together and as a team I have no doubt we will make it to the NCAA playoffs,” said McNeill. “We definitely have a huge target on our backs after last season but we are ready to do it all again.”
Working together as a team has been a theme for both the men’s and women’s teams. They believe that teamwork along with communication is what will lead to success.
Senior defenseman, Alexa Scudillo, adds to how the competition the Spartans see in the SSC are some of the best teams.
“I’m most excited about having this team compete with some of the best division II lacrosse teams in the country, a lot of which are in Florida and watching our hard work pay off on the field,” said Scudillo. “It’s a privilege to be on a team that’s able to take Tampa Women’s Lacrosse to the top six division II programs in the nation before we even line up for the first draw.”
The women’s lacrosse team will begin their season on Friday, Feb. 7 at home against the Alabama-Huntsville chargers.
Isabel Marhoun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org