Following a 10–9 loss to the University of Rochester in the final game of the regular season for the women’s lacrosse team last season, Head Coach Karen Hollands presented a challenge to her team — be the top-two players on the team at wall ball drills.
She required her players to participate in these sessions twice a week for a five-week period in pre-season training. Every week, each player would focus on catching the ball at different angles as the ball would be coming at them in multiple directions. The top-two players who mastered each routine received a complimentary lacrosse stick.
Senior Kylie McClure, who was one of the winners, said it helped the team develop better fundamentals.
“It helped us individually, in that players got more confidence in their stick skills,” she said.
The core aspects of lacrosse, such as ground balls and draw controls, have not always been in the team’s favor. In their opening 17–7 loss against SUNY-Brockport, the Bombers were only able to gather eight ground balls to the Eagles’ 23.
But the hard work started to pay off this weekend, when the Bombers improved to 3–3 overall with two conference games over the weekend. In both wins at Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College, the Bombers held an advantage in free position shots.
A free position shot is a race to get a shot off in front of the net before the defense can collapse on the shooter.
This type of shot, offered after the opposing team commits a foul inside the 8-meter arc, is an offensive opportunity for the entire team. Sophomore midfielder Nicole Borisenok said that fakes on the goalie and other defenders must be executed properly in order to score off a free position play.
“It’s similar to a foul shot in basketball, but there’s a lot more strategy involved since there are defenders on you,” she said.
Sophomore midfielder Siobhan Sullivan said the team devotes a lot of time to working on these types of situations in order to develop better vision of the field.
“At the end of practice we practice [free position shots] for 15 minutes to help the goalies get used to the shots, while the attackers try and develop a specific plan before they attack the cage,” she said.
The Blue and Gold scored 14 goals in each of the two games, beating the Tigers in double overtime 14–12 and scoring within the final 10 seconds to get by the Cardinals 14–13. The Bombers were presented with fewer opportunities but had a higher percentage of conversion, scoring on 5-of-11 attempts compared to their opponents, who went 7-for-20.
Borisenok said the two road conference wins were tremendous confidence boosters for the team heading into its three-game home stand.
“When we were at RIT and Fisher, there were tons of fans cheering against us, and it was a great experience to upset both teams in their own stadiums,” she said.
Borisenok and McClure have been quite the tandem for the Blue and Gold, combining on four of the team’s 28 goals over the weekend and scoring a combined 10 free position goals this season. McClure said the two have developed chemistry together since Borisenok’s freshman season, when she was fourth on the team with 29 goals.
“We’ve learned how our styles go together, and our attack is really cohesive and has great chemistry because we can lead each other and know what the other person is going to do,” McClure said.
Sullivan said that executing the basics has determined the wins and losses for Ithaca so far this season.
“The games that we’ve lost haven’t been so much about what other teams have been throwing at us,” she said. “We were having success on all the difficult aspects, but when it came back to the basic touch-and-go plays, we had a little bit of trouble.”