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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

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Under new coach, Belles lacrosse looks to keep up their winning ways

Saint Mary's lacrosse optimistic about new season despite dropping first two games

Arguably no team at Saint Mary's has been more consistently successful in recent years than lacrosse. The team has been over .500 every full season since 2017. Over the last three years, they're 36-19 with two MIAA Tournament titles and a third appearance in the championship game.

But things are different for the Belles this season. The most obvious change is in the head coach role. After a decade in the role, Amy Long stepped down as head coach after the end of last season, departing to become the head coach at the University of Findlay. In her place, Bethel University assistant Kara Visker steps in, excited to hold a collegiate head coach role for the first time.

“The girls have really backed me up and really got on board and which is incredible, because I think this year was a lot of changes. New coach, new assistant coach, new athletic trainer, who NCAA rules in the fall. So a lot of change overall, and they really got on board,” Visker said.

Visker does have international head coaching experience, so it's not like the position is totally new to her. But the challenge of maintaining the team's success won't be easy. All-MIAA First Team member Molly Mullett and second team members Erin Dotson and Lindsey Herdsman are no longer around. Those three combined for 159 goals, 194 draw controls and 94 caused turnovers a season ago, leaving the Belles with a massive amount of production and leadership to replace.

“I think from the fall we understand that this is a different year. And somehow we have to do things a little bit differently and support on and off and everywhere on the field is something that we have been focused on since day one,” Visker said.

No one player will be able to fill that void, making depth paramount to the team's success this season. Visker believes there's some youthful energy with this season's group, which makes sense given more than a third of the roster are freshmen.

"They have stepped up with grace and humility and fire. I think every returner will agree that this freshman class is absolutely incredible when it comes to them, personally, their work ethic and also like the super onto the team," said Visker. "They will be an active asset and a threat for us."

But still, anyone expecting things to be the status quo shouldn't be surprised Visker sees things being different for the Belles this season. With a new coach and a largely new roster, Visker also wants to implement a new play style.

"In the past, they have been more of a black and white kind of plays on attack. They normally went. They had specific places they needed to be on both defense and offense and that was their spot. They knew exactly what they were supposed to do to have to adapt. A very free freestyle like street play," Visker said. "Not everything has to be perfect. Not everything has to be ‘exceptional,’ but what matters is our recovery. So I want them to take risks and do risky things and maybe make a pass that isn't technically cookie cutter, but maybe it'll work and if it doesn't recover and work hard to slow down the transition and then do next play mentality."

It wasn't a perfect start to the season for Saint Mary's, as the team dropped its first two games while allowing 33 goals in the process. It normally takes a team time to adjust to change, so a slow start is perhaps a bit expected. But with a foundation of success and a new identity, the Belles believe they have what it takes to stay near the top of the MIAA in 2024. 

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