The Elon University women’s lacrosse team isn’t young anymore.
At least, not in terms of experience.
The Phoenix enters its third year of competition (its second in the Colonial Athletic Association) after an encouraging 2015 campaign that included a CAA Rookie of the Year performance by now-sophomore midfielder Stephanie Asher. Elon also has a wealth of experience, something that wasn’t the case for the past two years as it built the program.
This is the first year in the program’s existence that Elon has players from all four classes — freshman, sophomore, junior and senior.
“Definitely going into our third year, we don’t have that excuse anymore of ‘Oh, we’re a startup program,’” Asher said, “which we never really use as it is. With two seasons under our belt, we’re right there with everyone else.”
Asher, the only freshman to be named to the All-CAA first or second team a year ago, scored 44 goals, which ranked 52nd nationally. She also tallied 10 assists and averaged 6.06 shots per game.
That’s a helluva rookie year. Imagine what she can do now that she knows what she’s going up against.
The same could be said for Elon’s entire team. The current junior class is the program’s largest, and in its first collegiate season — Elon’s first — the Phoenix played in the Atlantic Sun.
Not exactly the level of the CAA.
In the CAA, Elon’s facing a slew of teams up and down the Mid-Atlantic, one of the biggest hotbeds for lacrosse in the United States. Naturally, talented players gravitate there.
For example, Elon will travel to Hofstra University in April for a CAA game. Last year, a game-winner in the final minute handed the Phoenix a respectable 10-9 loss to the Pride, which didn’t lose to an unranked team until the CAA Tournament.
That Hofstra team also included Brittain Altomare, who scored 39 goals and ranked second nationally with 4.76 points per game.
That’s just one suggestion of what Elon’s dealing with in its conference play. The Phoenix has a long way to go with regard to playing the nation’s best competition in nonconference action, but Asher’s stellar performance last year shows that talented players are making their way to Elon.
In addition to Asher, Elon returns juniors Sloane Kessler, Anna Vitton, Annie Shenk and Rachel Ramirez, as well as senior Kelli Stack, all of whom have run the gamut in the CAA.
“I just feel like we all kind of know now,” Kessler said. “For most of us, this is our third time around. Traveling and road games and how to handle things — all that comes from experience. Now we have experience. I think that maturity is something that’s really going to carry us.”
That it will. How far is yet to be seen.