The women’s lacrosse team is adjusting to a new offensive style this season that requires more creativity and risk-taking from all areas of the field.
First-year Head Coach Shannon McHale implemented the new offensive system for the Bombers. She developed the formations while she was Head Coach of the St. John Fisher College Cardinals for the past decade. The Cardinals led the Empire 8 Conference with 16.7 goals per game last season, while the Bombers finished fourth, scoring an average of 12.6 goals per game.
McHale said the success of the Bombers’ offense relies on players making well-timed moves to break away from a defender.
“Instead of being in a space and being marked, it’s ‘Leave it open and then make your cut,’” she said.
McHale said the team’s new offense is influenced by soccer strategies she used when she played for the SUNY-Brockport Golden Eagles.
“It’s kind of based on triangles,” she said. “You always have someone north-south and you always have someone east-west, so you’re never stuck if the person ahead of you isn’t open.”
Senior attack Nicole Borisenok said this year’s squad is more unpredictable when it has possession than it has been in the past.
“We don’t have set plays or set positions — we have seven people on the attack at all times that are a threat,” she said. “The defense can’t really determine what we’re going to do.”
The new offense requires more energy on the field than in seasons past, as players are looking to make extra passes to keep opposing teams on their heels. It’s a style that aims to wear opponents down rather than scoring a lot of goals in a short period of time.
Junior midfielder Michelle Avery, who finished with 11 goals in 18 games last season, said learning the new offense forced the upperclassmen to focus on more fundamental skills they developed in earlier seasons.
“Everyone is on the same level,” she said. “It’s like we’re all first years again learning brand new things.”
Borisenok and junior attack Tracy Rivas accounted for 44 percent of the team’s 221 goals last season. McHale said with more emphasis on movement this season, players are often in positions on the field they are not used to, which will result in a wider range of players scoring this season. She said the team’s main goal is to be more versatile than it has been in the past.
“If you can have all seven people being a threat, then how is the other team going to stop you?” she said.
The Blue and Gold’s offense got off to a fast start, scoring 41 goals in its first three games against University of Rochester in the season opener March 7, Springfield College on March 12 and Franklin and Marshall College on March 14. Five Bombers found the back of the net in the first game of the regular season. Junior midfielder Kim Armbruster was one of three players to register a hat trick — the third of her career.
Avery recorded her first career three-goal game against the YellowJackets and said the Blue and Gold’s new offense gives her more opportunities to score without having to cut from behind the net.
“Coach McHale has had us taking shots from farther out and that’s something we’ve never really done before,” she said.
Borisenok, who led the team in goals and points in 2011 with 53 and 66 respectively, said she has had to work on attacking the goal from a wide variety of positions on the field.
“Everybody I mark up against knows I want to drive from the top right, so I’m trying to become confident in driving from all angles on the field,” she said.
The Bombers will face SUNY-Cortland and SUNY-Buffalo this week before beginning their conference schedule on March 31 with a contest against Stevens Institute of Technology. Cortland and Stevens won their conferences and averaged more than 13 goals per game in the regular season prior to their playoff runs.
McHale said one of the challenges the South Hill squad has faced in adjusting to the new system is getting used to fitting the ball into tighter spaces.
“It’s hard to put yourself in a place to fail,” McHale said. “They are used to being very successful, and it’s hard to say, ‘It’s going to be OK if I make a mistake.’”