No. 22 women’s lacrosse eyes return to NCAA tournament

by Emily Lu | 2/14/20 2:00am

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Dartmouth graduated a few top players from last year but returns a strong team projected to finish third in the league.

Source: John and Matt Risley/Courtesy of the Dartmouth Athletics Department

After appearing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years and securing a share of the Ivy League title last season, the women’s lacrosse team will head into the 2020 season ranked third in the conference and No. 22 in the nation. Under new head coach Alex Frank, the Big Green will look to build on last year’s title and finish deeper in the bracket.

Dartmouth set several records during its historic 2019 season, including a regular-season high of 245 goals for the program and eight All-Ivy honors. The team’s NCAA run was cut short in a tight first-round loss against the University of Colorado, which was coincidentally coached by Frank. 

“We had a really close game [in which] we could’ve taken a win,” said Ellie Carson ’20. “Being on the cusp of making it to the next round will definitely be motivation — that feeling is still in all of the returning players.”

Among the nine graduated players were three First-Team All-Ivy selections and four All-Northeast Region honorees, with Kathryn Giroux ’19, Elizabeth Mastrio ’19 and Kierra Sweeney ’19 being named to both first teams. To fill this gap primarily on the offensive end, Frank said she has made adjustments to ensure more experienced players will be able to lead on the field. 

Carson will likely be heading up the Big Green’s attack this season. She was unanimously named First-Team All-Ivy in 2018; however, an injury held her to 13 games in 2019. Despite the limited playing time, she still managed to nab 29 goals to contribute to the team’s huge offensive campaign. 

“A lot of what we’ve done is try to find the perfect set of chemistry — that’s been a big focus for us since the fall,” Frank said. “We’ve adjusted some players positionally to have a little bit more leadership and more veterans on the offensive end.”

In particular, Frank highlighted Carson’s veteran presence on the attack, with Katie Bourque ’20 and Sophia Turchetta ’20 fronting the Big Green’s midfield unit.

In addition to positional changes, nine freshmen joined the team to add to the Big Green’s depth, including Under Armour All-American Katie Elders ’23 and Mimi Lazore ’23, who competed in the U19 World Championships last August. 

Frank arrives at Dartmouth after four seasons in multiple coaching roles with the Buffaloes, which qualified for the NCAA tournament for the past three years and won its first round matchups the last two years while Frank was associate head coach. She also has experience coaching U.S. Lacrosse and the Women’s National Team, and she hoisted three national titles in her own playing career at Northwestern University where she played two seasons with former Big Green coach Danielle Spencer, last year’s Ivy League Co-coach of the Year.  

“It’s been a really great transition for our team, and our team has responded really well,” Carson said. “The dynamic between the players and the coaches is everything that we could want it to be, and that’s something that’s really important for the success and the cohesion of the team.”

The Big Green’s first game comes against the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Saturday; however, due to Ivy League regulations, the team was not allowed to practice more than two hours a week until Feb. 1, according to Bourque. Bourque said that the team now spends up to two-and-a-half hours per day training together.

“It’s always kind of a shock once you get into season,” Bourque said. “Everyone was really excited for Feb. 1 to hit. When we were on our restricted hours, we really wanted to take advantage of every second that we’re on the field, and now we’re just trying to build off that and keep the momentum going from January.”

The preseason rankings, according to Bourque, serve to drive the Big Green this season. The Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll placed conference rivals Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania at No. 6 and tied at No. 12 place, respectively. 

“I’d rather not be ranked in first place because it gives you motivation — it gives you something to work for, and we always need to get better,” Bourque said. “[Frank] has taught us not to really look at the numbers because a team is so much more than a ranking. It doesn’t really matter who’s ranked what; it just matters who shows up to play that day.”