The Elon University women’s lacrosse team has put its second season in the books after a 10-7 loss to Drexel University Sunday. The Phoenix finished with back-to-back losses in Colonial Athletic Association play, missing the conference tournament, but still has a lot to be excited about.
A group of young talent has contributed to a successful season. Despite an overall record of 8-8, the Phoenix has emerged as a team to look out for in the coming years.
Elon had many new faces on the field this season. Of the 31 players on the Phoenixes’ roster, a dozen are true freshmen, with redshirts Ally Kozel and Paige Lorton making a total of 14 first-year players.
The new players have brought new assets to the team.
“We’re a lot faster overall this year,” said head coach Josh Hexter. “Physically we’re in much better shape, and collectively as a team we feel like we’re bigger, faster, stronger.”
Freshman midfielder Stephanie Asher gave the team plenty of offensive force with 44 total goals on the season, but other players have been just as vital to the success of the program. Sophomore attacker Sloane Kessler finished with 38 points and 17 goals this season.
Kessler’s play behind the net created many opportunities for teammates, tallying a team-high 21 assists.
“We’ve gotten open from cuts in the middle because people are dodging so hard that slides have to come,” said sophomore attacker Anna Vitton. “People in the middle are wide open, so I think that’s really helped this year.”
The formula has worked. The Phoenix averaged 9.5 goals per game over the course of the season. Freshman attacker Nicole Sinacori and freshman midfielder Abby Godfrey combined for 36 goals, giving opposing defenses fits. Three other players finished with double-digit goals this season. Freshman midfielder Kelsey Dupere had 13, Vitton had 12 and sophomore midfielder Molly Garrigan contributed 11, giving the Phoenix a total of seven players in double digits this season.
The team was clinical in front of net, putting about 78 percent of shot attempts on goal.
“Our class has really brought competitiveness to the team,” Godfrey said. “We’re really hardworking. We bring a lot of speed and heart to the team.”
Elon was not only strong at putting the ball in the back of the net, but it was also solid at keeping it out at the other end. Sophomore goalie Rachel Ramirez led the CAA in saves with 70, averaging 11.67 saves a game. She was second in the league in save percentage, saving around half of the shots faced every game.
Ramirez had seven games with 10 saves or more, including a season-best 15 against College of William & Mary on April 12. She anchored a defense that has continued to come into its own. The Phoenix back line cleared the ball about 75 percent of the time.
Rhodes Stadium was a stronghold for the Phoenix, which was 6-3 at home this season. The team struggled in away games, finishing at 2-5 on the road.
Elon found success outside of conference play and went on a four-game winning streak just before the start of CAA play. One game in the streak included a 16-10 victory over High Point University that saw five different players score.
The absence of seniors has not affected team leadership, Hexter said. Kessler and junior midfielder Kelli Stack have both stepped into their roles as captains commendably according to Hexter.
“We have great leaders on this team,” he said. “The freshmen have rallied around them and stepped up in their own way. I’m very happy and confident in our leadership.”
Despite some of the positive takeaways for the season, there is plenty of room for improvement.
Hexter hopes his team will be mentally tougher next season and pick up its intensity against CAA teams.
“We want to play the best competition every single game,” Hexter said. “New programs that don’t have tough competition level out really fast. This program is going to excel and keep rising higher and higher every year.”