By Morgan Clark, Staff Reporter
The UMF women’s lacrosse team is back in action as the 2016 season is in full swing, winning their first game on Sunday by defeating Wheelock College 10-9 in their non-conference season opener in Boston.
The game was a hard fought battle from both teams, but captain Mara Balboni’s six goals put UMF with the advantage. The game went back and forth, until, with only eight minutes remaining, junior Jackie Langevin scored the final goal while Wheelock played with a man down due to a penalty. Balboni and Langevin were both key players in the game, as well as junior Rhi Jackson who led the team in ground balls and added four draw controls.
Though they made an impressive first appearance of the season, the team is still dealing with issues of practice locations back home at UMF.
Currently the team is practicing at the Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC) on campus, which is approximately one-third the size of a regulation field, even using all three available courts, according to coach Molly Wilkie.
“The first game is always a bit of a shock,” noted Wilkie. “It’s an adjustment, but each time we play outside it gets a little better.”
The team usually has about four home games a season, though they often have to reschedule those. Luckily there are turf fields close by, such as Thomas College in Waterville, where UMF can play their games. The turf fields are typically drier since they are an artificial surface.
Since Maine’s winters are highly unpredictable it is difficult to say when games can be played. UMF does not currently have a turf field and the grass often remains wet and unplayable throughout the spring.
“You have to be flexible,” said Balboni. “We have to share the three available courts with other varsity sports, clubs, and the general public.”
According to Jackson, practicing at the FRC is difficult “especially when we can’t have all three courts.” This is often a problem since the FRC is in high demand during the spring.
Despite these challenges, the team is ready to get back onto the field following their recent win on Sunday. “We’re just excited to play,” said Wilkie.
According to Wilkie the team’s roster is smaller than she would like, “but we have people who buy into what we do,” she said. The Beaver’s have many new players this year, but return nine players from last year’s squad.
Jackson said the new players seem to be adjusting to lacrosse fairly quickly, adding to how well the team can work together, which has proved to be one of their biggest strengths.
“I’m excited to see some players step into bigger roles than they have played in the past,” said Balboni, “and seeing how the new players fit into the team.”
Last season the lady beavers finished in the middle of their conference.Though they made the playoffs, they lost their first round game to Husson to end their season. Out of ten teams in the conference, nine have women’s lacrosse. UMF finished in fifth place in the conference.
“This season I’m looking forward to building a stronger team than we had last year,” said Balboni.
The team has upcoming games throughout the rest of March, and their first home game is scheduled for April 2, depending on the weather and field conditions.
“I hope people will come out and check us out,” Wilkie said.