While the focus was deservedly on the seniors during Saturday’s pregame ceremonies at Carp Wood Field, three freshman midfielders have contributed just as much to the women’s lacrosse team’s success during the 2010 regular season.
The trio of freshman midfielders, Tracy Rivas, Michelle Avery and Kim Armbruster, has combined for 42 goals and 51 points through 13 games. The threesome also contributed to the Bombers locking the top seed in the Empire 8 Conference and earning the right to host the Empire 8 tournament May 8 and 9.
Senior attack Kylie McClure said the three players have stepped up and played like they have years of experience under their belts.
“They haven’t missed a beat from the get-go in the fall, and they play like they’re seniors,” she said.
McClure’s classmate and midfielder Lauren Fitzgerald said the team was excited to have them because of their relentless pursuit, which allows them to play well on the field both collaboratively and individually.
“They work hard, they’re fast and they’re aggressive, and that’s what’s important in the draw circle at the midfield,” she said.
Rivas said playing midfield for a Division III lacrosse program requires balancing aggression with fundamentals.
“Each transition, I man up and try to get that extra aggression on while focusing on the details,” she said.
Rivas is proof that big things can come in small packages. Listed as 5 feet 2 inches tall, she is the shortest player on the roster, yet she was able to net five goals in the win over nationally ranked Stevens Institute of Technology.
Rivas said Avery boosted her confidence during the offseason.
“In the beginning I was a little bit timid, but once we started the season and began to improve so much, all three of us were able to circulate that confidence,” she said. “Michelle just kept telling me, ‘Tracy, you’re unstoppable, and you can just push through people.’”
Avery said her own confidence continues to grow as the season goes on. She has started in 12 games and scored the game-winner against conference foe St. John Fisher College. She said working on off-ball movement and positioning has allowed her to improve from game to game.
“Moving without the ball is as important as being able to cradle the ball so you can open up for a scoring chance when you receive a pass from behind the cage,” she said.
Armbruster said she brings physicality to the game that mixes well with Rivas’ speed and Avery’s positioning. She said this developed from them competing against one another in one-on-one shooting and free position drills in front of the net.
The three freshmen fire shots from inside the 8-meter arc and practice passing from different angles, switching between offense and defense. Armbruster said the added physicality wears down opponents during games and usually allows for more offensive opportunities for the Blue and Gold because the opposing team commits fouls out of frustration.
“A lot of times the yellow card on the opponent can give us the opportunity to score and be more effective from the midfield on the offensive attack,” she said.
Head Coach Karen Hollands said with the tremendous depth on the South Hill squad’s roster, no player can afford to be settled in her role.
“I always tell the team, ‘Don’t focus on being a starter, focus on being a finisher,’” she said. “The three of them do that well.”
Avery said she was thankful for her starting role early on, and as far as the future goes, she said she, Rivas and Armbruster are taking the season one step at time.
“Starting as a freshman is something to never take for granted,” she said. “We’re just fighting to maintain the starting positions and taking it one game at a time.”