Lacrosse returns to play after abrupt end to last season

San+Diego+State+lacrosse+then-senior+midfielder+Taylor+Sullivan+looks+to+escape+an+Arizona+State+defender+during+the+Aztecs%27+19-18+win+over+the+Sun+Devils+on+Feb.+20%2C+2020+at+Aztec+Lacrosse+Field.

Derrick Tuskan, SDSU Athletics

San Diego State lacrosse then-senior midfielder Taylor Sullivan looks to escape an Arizona State defender during the Aztecs’ 19-18 win over the Sun Devils on Feb. 20, 2020 at Aztec Lacrosse Field.

by Nathan Navida, Contributor

 The last time San Diego State women’s lacrosse took the field was March 8, 2020, when it dominated the George Mason Patriots for a 13-8 victory. Like many teams, they have been waiting to be able to get back on the fields ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fortunately, they’ll finally get back to work this Saturday, Feb. 13, against the USC Trojans. 

They’ve been able to use the time since last March to set their goals, build team chemistry and return to the fundamentals to prepare for this season. 

Here are three observations entering the 2021 lacrosse season.

1. Prep during fall builds camaraderie

While the Aztecs’ 20202 season was cut short, they were able to hold some practices in the fall, where they were able to come together and connect with new teammates.

Two of the Aztecs’ team captains, senior midfielder Bailey Brown and graduate midfielder Taylor Sullivan, enjoyed the time they were able to spend bonding with teammates old and new during the Fall. 

“We were able to practice in the fall—that was really good,” Sullivan said. “We got to get more connected with the freshmen and get to meet them. That was really cool.”

This season will also mark the first time Sullivan will be able to play alongside her younger sister, freshman midfielder/attacker Alexis Sullivan.

 “I’m very excited to be able to play with her,” Sullivan said. “I’ve never been able to play with her because I graduated and then she was in eighth-grade. So this is the first time we’ve ever been on a team together. It’s really cool to be able to talk to her on the field and off the field about lacrosse and now she knows what I’m talking about.”

In addition to building camaraderie, the team was able to get back to the basics in practice.

“This was like an opportunity for us as we kind of got to go back to all of our fundamentals as a team,” Brown said. “(We) kind of got to reinstitute our team culture and reconnect with everyone and really get back to our discipline and basics.”

Head coach Kylee White said the preparation leading up to Saturday has also helped.

“I feel calmer than I have any other season,” White said. “And I don’t know if that’s because we have gotten more out of each practice, because the focus has been there more. “As we go into the weekend, I feel really confident at where we are as a team more so than ever.”

2. Big goals for coaches and student-athletes

The bar has been set high by White over the past couple of seasons for the Aztecs. White led her team to two consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) tournament championships in 2018 and 2019.

 This season, White said they are looking to continue their winning ways and hope to play well enough to enter a new conference next season.

“This year will be the last conference tournament for the MPSF because Fresno State dropped their program,” White said. “So we want to win the last MPSF tournament and go undefeated within our conference play. I also think trying to get into the Pac-12 is a goal for our program.”

The Aztecs will face five Pac-12 teams this season. Out of the five Pac-12 teams, the Scarlet and Black play four of them twice. 

White said beating ranked teams is one of the team’s goals entering play. The Aztecs will have their first opportunity to do that during the season opener versus Pac-12 member USC, who enters the season as the No. 13 team in the country.

“Our goals are obviously to enjoy being back on the field, compete hard and as always, upset a ranked opponent because we have a few on our schedule,” White said. 

Sullivan said she’s on the same page as her coach with how the team wants the season to turn out, especially because of how it ended last year. 

“We know how it felt when the season ended so roughly last year,” Sullivan said. “We’re just trying to control what we can control and go out there strong each game and each practice.” 

Like Sullivan, Brown is also taking a similar approach towards each game. 

“We’re kind of in an attitude where no games are guaranteed for us,” Brown said. “You never know what’s going to happen this next week. And so we’re thinking, ‘this is our last game.’ We’re going to leave it all on the field.”

3. Dynamic freshmen to help

Over the offseason, White and her staff acquired 10 freshmen who bring energy to the team both offensively and defensively. 

In practice, freshmen like attacker Brooklyn Waddell have impressed on the offensive side.

 “Brooklyn Waddell has definitely stepped in, stepped up on the offensive end,” White said. “She is an extremely dynamic attacker that knows how to find the back of the net. I mean, she scores goals. I don’t even know how she does it.”

Courtney Anderson and Katie Wozencroft are two on the defensive side who have caught the eye of White.

White said she admires how Anderson, Wozencroft and her freshmen have been able to step up right away and contribute so they can carry on a high level of experience for four to five years at SDSU.

“They are such a bonded group down there that I think they’ve really learned from the upperclassmen,” White said.

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