by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Anyone who follows NCAA Division II women's lacrosse was probably scratching their heads when they saw Southern New Hampshire University pop up in the IWLCA weekly poll this past spring. SNHU is certainly not a school considered among the elite powers that seemingly hold a permanent place in the rankings.
Under the tutelage of Mary Squire, who has been the coach of the Penmen since the program's inception in 2004, SNHU has gone from the bottom of the Northeast-10 Conference to the upper echelon of the nation's best teams. Countdown had a chat with Squire to find out where the Penmen program has been, and where it is going.
In five years you've started a program, going 0-10 your first season, and turned it into a squad that has improved every year, including this year's 12-6 record. The Penmen even cracked the Top 10. Was this the plan from the start? Are you ahead, at, or behind schedule?
I don't know that we had a great master plan in place. We just sort of took it one step at a time and built on everything we could. Hard work pays off.
The Northeast-10 has been dominated by Stonehill. Have you seen the conference getting any closer to the Skyhawks, or will they remain the team to beat for some time?
I think there is no question that they are still the team to beat. The debate is really for how long. Some of the other teams in the conference have shown - the upper bracket, so to speak - that their competition level has risen dramatically in the past two to three years. I think it's not long before we see some surprises.
You spent four years in the Army at Fort Bragg. Do you teach and run your practices with military precision? Has anything about your Army experience helped in coaching?
We do nothing military-esque, in that regard. [Laughing.] But I think a lot of the experiences, having to deal and jell with different people from different parts of the country - to achieve a common objective [was helpful]. The people I encountered and some of my experiences have helped me out tremendously, both personally and professionally.
I was surprised to see you only losing three seniors off this year's team. Is next spring a time when you envision further solidifying SNHU's reputation as a top-tier team? What are the team's goals?
There's no question that we hope to do some really great things next year. We lost a couple of key players, but with the recruiting class we have coming in, it really strengthens our depth and makes us a much stronger group. Our team goals always come from the team. They tell me we're ready to take the conference this year and go after an NCAA bid. My job is to make that happen.
Have you seen a bump in interest from student-athletes with your past two seasons?
Absolutely. [Laughing.] I have a much easier time. I almost have too many kids to handle and deal with, and that's always a great problem to have.
When you first arrived at SNHU, was it a tough sell at times on the recruiting trail?
I was begging people to look at the school. [Laughing.] If you ran track, please come see me, even if you had no playing experience at all. Any kid, we'll take you and make you a lacrosse player. So yeah, it's gotten much easier in that regard.
You return your top five scorers, including senior Libby Parent (76 points) and sophomore Sherry Darrell (71), but your defense struggled at times last year. Will that be your emphasis for the coming season?
I don't know whether it was so much our defense as it was our midfield giving up opportunities. I think defensively we did okay, as far as the game of lacrosse goes, but when you give the other team the ball too many times, they're going to put it in. Turnovers killed us last year.
I think our focus this year is really to build on the attack we had last year. We had lost our leading scorer from the previous year, Mara Murphy, to an ACL and she'll be back next year, so we'll be looking pretty good offensively. We're a very aggressive team defensively, so sometimes you pay the price. But ultimately, I think it was the turnovers in the midfield that killed us.
Countdown to '09
June 20, 2008 - Colby's Jon Thompson
June 27, 2008 - UNC's Joe Breschi
July 4, 2008 - Hamilton's Kaillie Briscoe
July 11, 2008 - Johns Hopkins' Dave Pietramala
July 18, 2008 - Michigan's Trevor Yealy