WD3 Notes: For St. Mary's, 'This is the Year'
It appears on the back of the warm-up jerseys. They chant it before, during and after games to keep the team going.
"We are all in."
They are the last four words, and the most important, of St. Mary's team motto this season. It's a simple phrase, but it has created a whole new atmosphere for the Seahawks under first-year coach Erin McDonnell.
Senior attacker Shelby Newman said the team uses its new motto when the going gets tough.
"Whenever we need a little bit more of a push," Newman said. "It's a constant reminder that we never do anything halfway. We're giving 110 percent the entire game."
The motto is fitting — there's a sense of urgency among the members of this team. With a roster that includes 15 upperclassmen (10 seniors) and a winning record in 2015, St. Mary's knows the time to win is now.
Even before McDonnell was hired last summer, she could feel the excitement for the 2016 season.
"Even in the interview, all they were saying is 'This is the year. This is the year,'" she said. "My focus was that this was the year and their focus was that this was the year. So far, expectations and reality are matching up."
McDonnell and her team have come out of the first few weeks unscathed, rallying off four straight wins to begin the season for the second straight year. It's a start that pushed the Seahawks into the No. 20 spot in this week's Division III rankings.
After making a trip to the Capital Athletic Conference semifinals and falling to York last season, St. Mary's got a glimpse of what could be in 2016. Newman said she's known the potential of this team since her freshman year, where the Seahawks finished 8-10.
"When we came in as freshman, we were all a little crazy and didn't know what was going on," Newman said. "But we just saw each other progress so much, even throughout our freshman year. ... Every year, we've been on the rise. So I think we've always, in the back of our minds, knew that this was the year."
St. Mary's suffered another losing season (8-9) in 2014 before returning to prominence last year. It revenged a handful of losses in 2015, but one lingered — Washington & Lee, a team that beat St. Mary's 8-7 last season.
The game with Washington & Lee, then No. 16, wasn't circled on the calendar for long. St. Mary's hosted the Generals on Feb. 24 and turned the tables — pulling the 8-7 upset.
"It felt incredible, especially because the score was reversed," Newman said of the win. "It was something that we needed to do when we set out. Everyone that was on the team last year just said 'we have to pull this out.'"
With the big win under their belt, the Seahawks continued the hot start with victories at McDaniel (18-8) and Randolph-Macon (12-10). Newman leads the team with 14 goals, followed closely behind by fellow senior Tori Poffenberger, who has 12 goals and six assists to top the points list.
Poffenberger returns after scoring 53 goals and adding 23 assists, while Newman brings 40 goals and 19 assists. In fact, nine of St. Mary's top 10 point-getters from last season are back.
The Seahawks will have a tough schedule in CAC play, with No. 7 Salisbury, No. 8 York and No. 17 Mary Washington coming up in the next six weeks. Still, McDonnell said her team is ready to compete for a conference title and a spot in the NCAA tournament.
"We're hungry for an NCAA bid," she said. "These girls, specifically the seniors, have worked for four years and adding in strong classes along the way. They deserve it. It's not something like 'St. Mary's just came out of the blue.' They've been working for four years."
Newman's said her goals stretch farther than just this season.
"The seniors in particular, our overarching goal is to build a program," she said. "We want to be alumni of a school that we can come back to and be pumped about when they win the CAC championship."
(Photo: Colby Athletics)
White Mules start strong
Colby was the biggest upward mover in this week's rankings, moving to No. 10 after just getting by No. 13 Hamilton on Saturday. The White Mules overcame a 5-2 first-half deficit to beat the Continentals 10-9 and open the season with a big victory.
Lexie Perticone, who finished with two goals and assists, scored what was the game-winning goal with 24:35 left in the game to put her team up 10-6. Hamilton responded with three straight goals, the final one coming with 1:33 remaining.
The road gets even tougher for Colby, as it hosts No. 2 Trinity on Saturday, followed by a road trip to No. 11 Tufts. We'll find out what this team is made of in the next two weeks.
Lord Jeffs dominate Bowdoin to open season
The second-largest jump came from Amherst, a team that cruised by No. 12 Bowdoin 11-6 on Saturday. The Lord Jeffs jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the first half and comfortably won its first game in 2016.
Mary Grace Cronin led the way with five goals and an assist and Christy Forrest tallied 14 saves to stifle the late Bowdoin comeback.
Amherst lost the battle for draw controls 10-9, the ground balls 20-17 and shots 23-22, but Bowdoin went 0-for-6 on free position attempts. Up next for the Lord Jeffs is a road matchup with No. 14 Bates, before a trip to Clermont, Florida for two games next week.
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