Sports

Young, dynamic women’s lacrosse poised for successful 2016 campaign

Brown builds early season confidence with wins in season openers against Iona, Central Connecticut

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, February 26, 2016

Zoe Verni ’19 watches the play develop. She notched her first career points against Iona and is one of eight first-years competing for playing time.

Coming off a 13-11 win against Iona Saturday and an 8-2 victory over Central Connecticut State Wednesday, the women’s lacrosse team sports a fresh lineup ready to do some real damage in the spring season. After a long preseason, Bruno looks to improve on last year’s 1-6 Ivy League record.

“It’s an exciting group because everyone for the most part has learned a new system or is in a new position,” said Head Coach Keely McDonald ’00. “There are a lot of new faces at almost every position, so there is certainly going to be a lot of learning early on, finding out what makes us our best and we’re really excited about that.”

As McDonald noted, eight first-years joined the roster this year, and each will have “a ton of opportunities” to contribute as the season progresses. Already, the team’s first matchup against Iona saw rookie midfielder and two-time U.S. Lacrosse High School All-American Zoe Verni ’19 notch her first collegiate point with an assist to Sarah Nesi ’16 for Brown’s first goal of the season.

Last year, Brown graduated a number of core veterans including goalie and four-year starter Kellie Roddy ’15. But the team has a group of seniors ready to lead it to success on the field this season. Co-captains Lauren Toy ’16, Dianne Vitkus ’16 and Richael Walsh ’16 will rely on their experience as multi-year starters in order to serve as role models for the newcomers.

The captains “are a very composed and dynamic group,” McDonald said. “They have been huge in connecting the team: connecting the players with the coaches, as well as being the glue that really connects the players with each other.”

Toy enters her final season at Brown having led the team last year with 26 goals, a campaign that included four hat tricks and three two-goal games — one of which against Ivy League rival Harvard. The team will look to her productivity in front of the net to help drive a winning season and conference title run.

At the helm of the offense this past weekend against Iona, Toy led the team with four goals, two of which came late in the game and helped Brown pull off the victory.

“I hope to help the team get the win in any way I can,” Toy said. “Obviously someone has to put the ball in the back of the net, but it’s that full team effort that makes goals happen and that will make us so successful this season.”

Walsh, who also captained last year’s team as a junior, and Vitkus, a commanding presence in the midfield, will be invaluable leaders both on the field and in the locker room.

Finally, on the defensive end, Brown will rely on a new and revamped system. Bruno hired new Assistant Coach Brian Schneider, a former assistant coach on the Yale men’s lacrosse team who brings “a new perspective to our defense,” Viktus said.

Ultimately, the process is just as important as the outcome, McDonald said.

“Our biggest goal is to have that championship effort every day at practice and in every game and see where that takes us at the end of the season,” she added.

Last year, Brown finished 7-8 overall and seventh in the Ivy League with tough losses to Princeton and Dartmouth to close out conference play — performances Bruno will definitely look to better in its 2016 campaign. “We are striving to be a contender in the Ivy League, but most importantly, (we need) to be a team that leaves everything on the field and can look back on the season with pride,” Viktus said.

Looking ahead, the Bears will host Denver Saturday at 1 p.m. Their first Ivy League matchup will be at Penn on March 5, which will hopefully build momentum for the Bears going forward.

“The first Ivy is the most important Ivy,” McDonald said. “So it will be a great test.”