BY Rob Witham
A new season, a new goalkeeper, and a slew of major rules changes. You can forgive Randolph-Macon women’s lacrosse for showing some opening day jitters Saturday during the first half of their first game of the season facing Frostburg State.
But a 5-0 run for the Yellow Jackets late in the first half calmed those nerves, gave the team confidence, and a springboard to a successful second half, and a 21-14 win over the Bobcats to start 2018 at 1-0.
“There were first game jitters, doing some things we don’t normally do, so then to have that nice run, and to click defensively in the second half was huge for us,” said Randolph-Macon head coach MK Geratowski.
With ten of their top thirteen scorers returning, the strength of the Yellow Jackets early on would be on offense. The biggest question mark would be in goal, where Geratowski had to choose from a sophomore transfer in Elicia Wells, a sophomore returnee and a freshman. Wells got the nod in the opener, and looked shaky early, but settled in, in part due to the 5-0 run provided by the Yellow Jacket offense.
Randolph-Macon opened with the first two goals, both by Hannah Jones. The Bobcats answered with three straight tallies before Rachel Jones scored with an assist to Bella Samper to tie the match at three. The Bobcats scored three of the next four goals, including one from Morgan Cavey with just four seconds left on the new ninety-second shot clock, prompting a Yellow Jacket timeout. Last year’s leading scorer Alicia Hsieh sent the ball into the net on a free position shot, her second of the half, to draw the Yellow Jackets within one at 6-5 with 12:12 left in the half.
Cavey scored her fourth goal of the match to give Frostburg State the 8-6 lead with 7:56 remaining. That’s when the Yellow Jacket defense began to click, Wells began to tighten the space between the pipes, allowing Randolph-Macon’s offense to take over. Two straight Hsieh goals tied it, an unassisted Mary Castle goal gave the Yellow Jackets the lead for good, and Samper, in her first game in black and yellow, scored twice in a nineteen-second span. Randolph-Macon led 11-8 at the break.
Frostburg State scored the first two goals after intermission and three of the first four to draw within one. But Julia Bain answered with back to back unassisted tallies within eleven seconds to propel the Yellow Jackets into control of the rest of the match, as the Bobcats were never closer than four goals.
With 6:33 left in the match, a Bobcat player fell awkwardly onto the turf and remained down. Trainers attended to her, and a delay ensued while an ambulance was called and medical personnel attended to her head and neck area. She was taken off on a stretcher, moving all extremities prior to be taken away for treatment.
Hsieh picked up where she left off last season with a team-high five goals, while Rachel Jones scored three times. Bain added three assists to her two scores while Castle, Samper, Saunders Riley and Hannah Jones scored twice, while Taylor Sheppard and Jordan Dudley each had a goal.
“We play an aggressive defense, and we ask them to take risks,” Geratowski explained. “They feel much better doing that, and we got a little cushion.”
As for the rule changes, ranging from the shot clock to changes in draw controls and other areas, the biggest differences Geratowski saw came offensively, which, being the area of most experience for the Yellow Jackets, could become a strategic advantage as the season unfolds.
“I didn’t think (changes) were huge today. I think the game is much faster, and we probably would have taken some time off the clock last year had we been in the same situation at certain points during the game,” Geratowski said. “That makes us score more goals, which is great in some senses, but I think it also highlights our depth. We have a bench we can use, and if we didn’t, I think we would struggle.”
In all, twenty-one players saw action for the Yellow Jackets, who next hit the road to face Stevenson College on Saturday at 1pm before returning to Day Field for a match under the lights against New England College on Wednesday March 7th. They’ll have nine matches under their belt before their Old Dominion Athletic Conference opener, a showdown with Washington and Lee, the conference favorite and longtime defending champion, in Ashland on March 31st.