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Oct. 31, 2014

Cavalier women’s lacrosse head coach Julie Myers sat down with after the end of her team’s 2014 fall training period to discuss what she saw from her squad during their workouts and their six scrimmages.

You wrapped up your fall training last week. What were some of your overall impressions from the practices and your slate of scrimmages?
“It was a great fall. I think we have a small team, but it is full of players who are really into lacrosse and into succeeding and working hard, and like doing it alongside of their teammates. We started the fall in the middle of September with great leadership and great experience at the top from our older kids, but from our younger kids there was also urgency and a willingness to learn. Throughout the course of the fall, every week we were able to chip away and get a little bit stronger and more consistent and see a little bit more from them.
“We started off playing against Georgetown with Richmond right after that. We were fast and we were good, but we were shaky, uncertain as to how it was all going to come together. When we played Florida, we were okay but not great. Last week we played JMU, Hopkins, and Maryland and we really hit our stride. All of our defenders started to understand a lot better of how to defend the eight and how to work together and move as a unit. Our attackers, led by Courtney Swan, Liza Blue, and Casey Bocklet, are so good that no matter who we were playing against, who they were playing with or what the game scenario was, they were so rock solid and anchored everything.
“By the end of the fall, we were able to look back and say `We are fast. We are strong. We are quick. We have good hands and we have people playing at a pretty high level and in all the right spots.’ We are excited going into the next phase of preparation that is training based rather than competition based, trying to push every body to do their best and hit the ground running come January.”

You are returning most of your attack from last season, including a pair of All-Americans in Courtney Swan and Liza Blue, a position that you haven’t been in the last couple of years. How much of an advantage was that this fall?
“The most exciting part about our attack, besides the fact that clearly they are extremely talented, can score a lot of goals, and are very versatile, is that Casey Bocklet to me is the X-factor. She got in great shape over the summer. She is confident, excited and upbeat. Casey has really helped Courtney and Liza, who were already playing at such a high level. Casey has been able to generate so much attack, she is really comfortable running the show from behind, but I think Casey’s fine-tuning of a few things in the offseason has really elevated all of the players around her. Even though its familiar faces and personalities at the attack, it was great to see what a little bit more could do from one of our key players.”

You also have veterans returning on defense, including All-American Morgan Stephens as well as a healthy Kelsey Gahan. What did you see from the backfield this fall?
Kelsey Gahan is so much more mobile this year and that has really helped our defense. She is a great communicator, she sees things really well, she can tell kids where to go and what to do as well as being willing to do it herself. The team really listens to her and she is giving them really good information to use.
Morgan Stephens is not going to say a whole lot, but she is going to be hugely effective in what she does say and the defenders will listen to her as well. She is so fast and so strong, so I think that the tandem of Kelsey and Morgan will really anchor the defense and make it pretty strong. We do want Morgan to run transition for us and steal a few goals there as well because she has very soft hands and is so fast. She played midfield and defense the last couple of years, but we would rather have her as a defender so that she is always on the field as opposed to a midfielder who is running on and off. I think that our need for Morgan on the field and her strengths really do lie on the defense, but we are certainly going to look to her to run some of our offense as well, in terms of fast breaks and transitions.
“Daniella Eppler is even more comfortable as a middie, she was a true defender from high school that we have transformed into a midfielder because she is so fast and so confident. She is doing a better job of fitting in with the attack and really contributing as well. The energy and confidence that comes from having some fourth years that are really playing well all over the field has been contagious for our team so far.”

Fall is a great time for your younger players to see significant playing time. What were some of the most exciting things you saw from the first-years?
“We do handle the fall a little bit differently than some other programs as we look at it as an equal-opportunity experience for all the players. We split the halves and change our lineups. I think that, all told, we only played two halves total with what we thought would be all our starters together. Otherwise, they were all sprinkled throughout which gives everybody a chance to step up and to do even more.
Kasey Behr, a first year player out of Long Island, is a true middie. She is fast, she is strong, she can shoot the lights out of a ball and she can stop a one-on-one. We expected big things out of Kasey, being probably the top recruit in the country, but she absolutely lived up to expectations and is going to contribute a lot this season. Rachel Vander Kolk is our goalkeeper and she had a phenomenal first year fall. Kim Kolarik (’13) had a fall that good her first year, but they don’t come around that often, so we are really excited about Rachel, her leadership and her ability to anchor the defense. We have some great speed in Meghan Heick, who is a first year middie, and Lilly DiNardo who is tough and fearless. I think those four will look to be the ones that contribute the most.”

In addition to the first-years, were there some other returners who weren’t starters last year that excelled in the fall?
Ella Cooper is a third year defender who worked hard and just kept battling, so she is in the conversation for a starting spot or being in that rotation. Maggie Preas is still in that conversation, she has great reach and a really good lacrosse IQ, so I think that as a second year she has the chance to crack into that lineup. Caroline Seats is a middie who is also in the conversation. She is making a case for herself just for being gritty and working hard.

You have nine starters returning from last year’s team, six fourth-years and a pair of fifth-years on the team. How have they embraced their leadership roles this fall?
“The veteran leaders don’t complain and are the ones who say `C’mon, lets do it!’ Its been a long time since we have had such a cohesive fourth (and fifth) year group that is serious about what they are trying to do. Their mission is clear: they want a final four and they want a championship. They want to be playing on Sunday in the ACC tournament here at home, they want to win and they know that the more they do, the better our chances are. It has been a really nice fall with our leadership because there is such a high level of experience under all of their belts and that has made a big but quiet difference that I can feel. We knew that this class of fourth-years would be great even when they were first-years, but now I want to appreciate every moment I have with these talented and good kids.”

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