'Championship Mindset' the Goal for Louisville
Kellie Young knew her Louisville lacrosse team could compete in the ACC last year, but there were a couple ingredients missing in what she believes is the recipe for success.
That's why after a 10-8 finish with just two conference wins in 2015, Young spent the fall and each day since stressing the need for a "championship mindset."
So far, that approach — which Young said requires a lot of focus and attention to detail — has helped the Cardinals to a 5-0 start, including a 7-6 overtime win over No. 14 Boston College on Feb. 27. They hope it will also factor in as they face Northwestern (1-2), which is No. 10 in the Nike/LM Top 20, on Thursday and No. 5 Notre Dame (5-0) on Saturday.
"We are really working on being focused in practice because that's when we're learning," Young said. "Then, as we get into game days, having that championship mindset allows us to overcome the highs and lows of every game. If we get scored on, it's not that we're not a good team. We made a mistake or maybe the other team just did something really nice. It's remembering to respond with a championship mindset — on the very next play we're attacking."
Louisville has been led by a stingy defense that allows just 4.9 goals per game with sophomore Brittany Read in the cage and players like Stephanie McNamara, Heidi Smith, Emily Howell and Courtney Boyd contributing.
Offensively, senior midfielder Kay Morissette still leads the way with 13 goals, 4 assists and 53 draw controls, but junior Hannah Koloski (13 goals, 2 assists) and senior Cortney Daley (11 goals, 3 assists) are taking off some of the pressure.
Young said the team is working to build its overall depth so players remain fresh, thus allowing Louisville to better compete for a full 60 minutes. That's where another piece of the championship mindset comes in, as well. Young is trying to instill the importance of every player to the team's success.
"We have 27 players on the team, and we only succeed when all 27 players are present," Young said. "We've struggled over some of the years here, where we have 17 invested in our success or 24.
"We're really trying to show everyone what they bring to our program to help us have that championship mindset. Coaches doing a better job, players really loving the game and being invested whether they play on game day or not, and our starters really showing an appreciation for what those reserves do to help them prepare has helped us stay as a team committed to our mission."
Part of the mission for the Cardinals is proving they can compete in a tough ACC, something they struggled with last year after moving from the Big East.
Louisville was coming off a historic 2014 season, which included a sweep of the Big East regular-season and tournament titles for the first time, an NCAA quarterfinal appearance and an impressive 16-4 finish. However, the move to the ACC meant an even more challenging schedule.
"Last year was a big transition moving to the ACC because we went from playing good competition to playing really great competition every game," Morissette said. "Now, I think we're better prepared to play those teams."
"We have 27 players on the team, and we only succeed when all 27 players are present."
— Louisville coach Kellie Young
The Cardinals were accustomed to playing Syracuse and Notre Dame, when they too were in the Big East, and at least had always stayed close with the Fighting Irish in the past. But, now they had to add in teams like North Carolina, Duke, Virginia and Boston College.
Young said Louisville competed in parts of those five ACC games they lost, but could have done better. The two wins came against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
"We hung with them and were successful in some parts and other parts we just melted," she said. "This year, we're hoping we make that transition to: "This is who we are. This is what we're doing. You just have to believe even when you are playing these historic programs."
Confidence is another big part of that championship mindset, Young said, and it started developing in the fall with a strong performance against Penn State, followed by a tie against Team USA the next day.
Louisville had started the weekend with two poor performances but gradually started playing better leading into the Penn State and Team USA games, the latter of which was especially rewarding.
"Those are the moments you know your team has the ability but just has to believe it," Young said. "To attack the game against your national team for all of 40 minutes, I was really proud of them for being fearless and being invested. We ended the fall feeling confident, knowing what we were capable of, and then our goal was just making sure we were consistent throughout the spring with every opponent we faced."
Boston College was the first big test of that. Young said the Cardinals didn't play particularly well but showed perseverance by overcoming mistakes and remaining patient until Koloski punched in that game-winning shot came in overtime.
"Boston College was a great win for us, especially after losing in overtime to them last year," Morissette said. "It showed that we're a team everyone has to worry about, and it shows what we're capable of. And, it's not just proving that to other teams, but to ourselves.
"Now we have some confidence in who we are and what we're trying to become."
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