Less than two minutes into the Ithaca College women’s lacrosse team’s game against Clarkson University on April 6, senior attacker Elizabeth Rice caught a pass from senior teammate Allie Panara inside of the 8-meter arc. She turned, whipped back her stick and let loose a shot that soared past Clarkson goalie Samantha Gladd, marking Rice’s 100th goal of her collegiate career.
With four regular-season matchups remaining in the season, Rice has netted 33 goals for a career total of 105. She is currently tied with junior attacker Bailey Herr for the team’s highest scorer and had a season-high of five goals against the University of Rochester on March 26.
Rice’s journey to the top of the Bombers’ stat sheet was not a quick one. She saw the field in only two games during her freshman year — March 23 and 31 — due to an ACL tear that ended her season when it had barely begun. She spent nine months recovering from the injury and was not cleared to compete until the start of the 2017 lacrosse season.
Rice said that although she was no longer injured, she did not perform to her potential during her sophomore season. She said she was still tentative on her bad knee and did not feel like she was at full strength.
“Sophomore year, I was still really weak from my ACL,” Rice said. “I didn’t realize that. I thought I was fully back. But when I saw the results junior year, I didn’t realize how weak I still was before.”
Rice’s junior year marked a turning point for her field presence. During her first two seasons as a Bomber, Rice had amassed a mere five goals. However, in 2018 she netted an outrageous 67 goals, surpassing the next highest scorer by 21. Head coach Karrie Moore said she saw a significant change in Rice coming into the 2018 season.
“I think coming off of an ACL [injury] is hard,” Moore said. “It takes a while before you actually feel really good, especially in a sport where you’re getting hit. She came back that fall after her sophomore year and just looked different. She obviously had worked really hard.”
Rice attributed her transformation to her commitment to her offseason training during summer 2017.
“We get a workout packet, so I’d do that, and then I’d do extra,” Rice said. “I was always trying to do extra and prioritize it every day. It would be a spring workout and lift. Then I would shoot or run an extra two miles at the end and things like that.”
Rice believes the improvements she has made in her work ethic over her four years have made her the athlete she is today.
“I’m a completely different player now,” she said. “I’m a lot more hardworking now. You learn that especially recovering from an injury with such a long recovery time. You learn to have a really strong work ethic and prioritize that, and that’s definitely contributed a lot.”
The strength and speed that Rice has built up since her successful return make her difficult to defend on the lacrosse field. Moore said her tough style of play is a major factor in her scoring ability.
“She doesn’t mind getting hit, and she goes to goal hard,” Moore said. “She really cuts at speed. She just comes at you. Especially she’s good at timing her cuts, so when the defender is sliding at her, she’s already moving at full speed and that’s tough.
Another asset for Rice on the attack is Panara. Panara became the Bombers’ all-time career assist leader in the same game that Rice netted her 100th goal. She has assisted many of Rice’s goals throughout their four years on the team, including her 100th. The two are also roommates, and Panara calls Rice one of her best friends.
“Lizzy and I have a very strong connection on the field,” Panara said. “We communicate well verbally and nonverbally, and we’re familiar with the type of things we like to look for and try to set each other up for success. I know Lizzy will always have my back.”
Moore said that Panara and Rice’s unique relationship on the field has allowed them both to be such significant contributors for the Bombers. She said that the entire senior class is close and that they have left their mark on the college’s lacrosse program.
“It’s been really fun to see them develop since freshman year, and, as a class, they play really well on the field together,” Moore said. “I think that to see them really buy into what we’re trying to build here and then be so successful on the field has been cool. That class has really set the tone for how we want this program to operate.”