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Nov. 4, 2013

The Virginia women’s lacrosse team wrapped up “Fall Ball” last week. Head coach Julie Myers shares her impressions of the offseason training and scrimmages.

What are your general impressions of fall training?
I think we did a great job in the fall. We were able to really incorporate all the newcomers and then establish some leaders in the returning upperclassmen. All said and done, we’ve changed our style a bit. We’re trying to take more chances and push the pace more all over the field. I feel like it was shaky in the beginning, but it picked up momentum as we picked up our understanding across the board. All told, I think we did a nice job welcoming the first-years, getting them off the ground and into the mix moving forward. We’re excited for the spring.

You have seven first-years this season. How did that large group do in meshing with the rest of the team?
They did a great job. They knew each other coming in and they knew a bunch of kids on the team. I feel like that integration was taken care of even before they arrived on Grounds in the fall. That’s something that we really benefit from. Our upperclassmen are traditionally very welcoming to the new faces, and I think the kids didn’t miss a beat. They started the school year well. They understood our expectations as coaches and the expectations we have as a team. They just jumped right in.

Of your returners, who looked to you to have the biggest improvement over the course of training?
I think everybody improved. If practice works, then everybody improves. I would say Morgan Stephens had an awesome final scrimmage this fall. She picked up leadership and momentum along the way. She knows that we are going to look to her for a lot of defensive moments and plays, as well as our transitions and our goals. She did a great job against Florida.
I think Casey Bocklet and Ashlee Warner did a great job of playing well with each other and incorporating all of the other attackers around them. And I would say that Maggie Preas and Posey Valis, two pretty highly-recruited first-years, hit the ground running. We thought Maggie was going to be good, but she is even more mature than we thought she’d be at this stage. And Posey is tougher than we thought she was going to be. We had huge expectations for them, but they matched them and did a little bit more.

How much of an advantage is it to bring back almost all of your attack from last season?
Even though, for the most part, it’s the same attackers coming back, it is a different style we are asking them to play. We’re trying not to be quite as deliberate [on offense]. We really want to try to use our speed in transition and go right to the goal with it. Every player loves to go fast and take chances and know that mistakes are going to happen, but they’re going to work really hard to not make the same mistake twice. I think the buy-in from the attackers was great, and I think that was due in large part because they were familiar with the coaches. They understood what we were asking them to do and they were able to do it.

What have you seen from the midfield?
We are running lots of middies this year because we want to play fast. That’s something that’s different, so we’ve kind of given extra life to a handful of kids. If we run six to eight middies in a game as opposed to three to four, that’s just so much more opportunities for other kids. They’re excited to go fast and to play hard for their three to five minutes before they come out knowing that rest is coming. That dynamic has energized the team a little bit knowing that there is going to be some opportunity. Everybody has to be ready because you never know what is going to happen.
Coming out of scrimmages, I think we have the depth. Players have gotten more confident and a little bit better. Dana Boyle, who was an attacker for us last year, is looking at running some of this mid for us. In some spots, we may play fewer skilled players or technical players. Maybe we’ll play defense with three true defenders so you have a chance of a fourth middie being in there and using their speed. We are figuring out what exactly it’s going to look at on our end. What I saw was the team saying, “Just tell me what to do and where to go and for how long and I’ll run through a wall.” I think that’s pretty exciting.

On defense, how are you looking to fill the void left by the graduation of Megan Dunleavy?Megan was a great leader because she was dynamic, both on and off the field. She was the kind of kid that could make everyone laugh when things were tense. We have not established who will be that personality of the defense quite yet, but certainly someone like Kelsey Gahan, who is coming off of major surgery, can come in and establish that defensive mindset. And first-year Maggie Preas has done a great job, too. So we don’t have the comic relief we had in Megan, but I think over time, players will feel more comfortable to be funny. If not, they’re pretty fierce on the field, so that might be their character. If they’re serious and they win, then that’s how we’ll get our fun.

Late last season, you moved Morgan Stephens to defense and she is playing back there again this fall. What is the advantage of having her play back?
She’s so fast and so smooth and she’s a big, strong kid. She’s probably our best shutdown defender, but she’s also our fastest kid who can score. We battle about Morgan every day in the office. Is she a midfielder? Is she a defender? Hopefully if our team stays healthy, Morgan can stay at mid. She’s fast and dynamic and can score. She can do so many things so well.

How have the goalies looked this fall?Liz Colgan is a fourth year, and I saw her grow by leaps and bounds. Maturity wise and leadership wise, she was able to roll with the punches when she needed to and she came out on the right side of it. By the end, I saw Liz become a leader. She didn’t have to do it vocally, but she did it by supporting kids. If they take a chance and they come up short, she was okay with fielding that shot. I think that showed great growth in maturity.
And then there’s Britt [Brown], a first-year who loves shooters coming out and shooting and loves the extra work. She’s raw in terms of technique, so she’s had to learn how to play goalie from the X’s and O’s standpoint rather than the instincts standpoint. What we’re trying to do is have her instinct have a little more of a foundation, and then kind of letting her go from there. The goalies’ working relationship is pretty solid. Liz has the upper hand right now, but I don’t think Britt is going to walk away very easily. It’s going to be a very good push, but in a friendly way.

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