By Hayden Cox, Columnist
The Paladin Women’s Lacrosse Team opened up their season last week against the Duke Blue Devils, ranked 10 in the country. Although the outcome fell short of victory, the women hung tough and exceeded their expectations in the tough matchup.
“We’re all still very positive about this season,” said junior defender Courtney Richter. “We saw some things we did well but now we also know what we need to work on.”
Unlike most of the athletic teams on campus, the women’s lacrosse team competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference since there are not enough teams in the Southern Conference to field a league. They will, however, move to the newly formed SoCon Women’s Lacrosse Conference for next year. In the ASUN, the women compete against a wide range of schools, from Jacksonville to Central Michigan to Delaware State.
“The main goal is to win the ASUN and get our first bid to the NCAA tournament,” Richter reports. She added that the women were undefeated at home last year and are working to continue that success.
The women are in their third season as a team under program founder, Coach Rachel Whitten, a former midfielder and assist record holder at Loyola. After graduating Loyola, Coach Whitten served as an assistant at Denver before starting up the Furman program from scratch.
“She treats the program and the girls as her babies. A lot of the girls even call her mom,” Richter said, as she explained how close the team is with each other and their coach.
Coach Whitten’s devotion to her team is clear not only in her time coaching the girls on the field, but also in the time she spends building the team off the field. The Thursday night before the Duke game, Coach Whitten and her assistants sent the girls on a scavenger hunt, finding pieces of a letter from Coach Whitten to the team with keywords like “dedication,” “intensity,” and “teamwork” that the team had picked out to represent them earlier in the year.
While the women were busy with the scavenger hunt, Coach Whitten and the assistants lit candles across the field, one for each woman on the team. When the team returned, the seniors read Coach Whitten’s letter and participated in a small ceremony to mentally prepare the themselves for the game.
The women had their home opener Wed. Feb. 22 at 5:00 p.m. against Presbyterian. Captains Sam Eckels, Molly Marshall, Paige Gamble, Ashley Trice and Devon Horine, all seniors, hope to start their home campaign off with a win.
The Paladins will be back in action on Sat. Feb 26 at 12:00 p.m. against Vanderbilt in Paladin Stadium.