UM’s lacrosse team practices on the intramural fields a week before their Feb. 5 game against Point University. Photo by Jasmyne Ray/The Alabamian.
A team of girls thunder down a grass field, their cleats kicking up tufts of the ground beneath them. Each brandishes a large stick topped with a mesh net hugged tightly to their chests.
Three give chase as another player with a ball in her net cuts swiftly across the grass. The ball carrier constantly rocks her stick back and forth in her hand. The motion keeps the coveted object tucked safety in the vertical net, even while she runs down the field.
With a lightning fast flick, the player hurdles the ball towards a small netted goal.
The description above is a mere 20 second snapshot of a Friday practice by the inaugural University of Montevallo women’s field lacrosse team. The girls are set to make their mark in UM history by playing the program’s first ever game on Friday, Feb. 5 against Point University.
The match is not only historic for the University but the state of Alabama as well. It will be the first ever National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II game of women’s field lacrosse played in the Heart of Dixie.
For those unfamiliar with the game, lacrosse is a close contact sport with roots traced to a traditional game played by certain Native American tribes.
“We keep telling people, the great thing about lacrosse is it really gives Americans everything they want in sports. There’s a lot of activity, it’s fast paced, a lot of scoring,” Head Coach Frank Rogers said. “Really all you got to worry about is cheer loud when we put the ball in the back of the net and enjoy it.”
Rogers, who helped start programs at Brevard College in North Carolina and Aquinas College in Michigan, is confident in the diverse team he and Assistant Coach Kalyn Spatol have molded.
The current roster features girls from nine different US states and three different Canadian provinces, most of them freshmen.
Junior Maddie Ellis and sophomore Lauren Duckworth are two of only three upperclassmen. They previously played collegiate lacrosse at Brevard College and the University of Alberta respectively.
Ellis plays as an attacker and is a major force of the team’s offensive strategy. The position calls for passing and shooting the ball to score goals, as well as attempting to allow other teammates to become open.
The opposite position is defense, which attempts to slow down the opposing team and prevent them from scoring.
Duckworth plays mid-field, which Rogers describes as the “workhorse” position of the game. Mid-fielders blend the other two positions together and run the length of the field to help where they can. The final position is the goalie, which, like its cousin in soccer, blocks opponents’ shots from entering the net.
The girls said forming a team culture was a quick process. “We all had respect for each other right off the bat, so once that was established we saw that we were able to grow as a team,” said Duckworth.
When not on the field or on the third floor of Brooke Hall, the team is easily identifiable by the lacrosse sticks they constantly tote to class, caf and everywhere else. The girls have used their UM peers’ natural curiosity about the sticks to slowly gather interest in their debut match.
Currently, the women’s lacrosse team’s first season will consist of 16 games that will send the girls as far away as Oklahoma and West Virginia.
According to Rogers, UM is part of a mash up lacrosse conference consisting of teams from both the Peach Belt and Gulf South conferences.
Despite the unconventional nature of the season, Spatol said the team has felt right at home at the university known for unconventional wisdom. “Being a team that does represent so many different parts of the country and the world, it’s nice to come to a place that is so accepting of a new culture in and of itself,” she said.
“I can’t wait to show everyone how hard we’ve worked since the beginning of September,” said Duckworth. “Including other lacrosse teams, other sports teams and everyone who sees our sticks and wonders what lacrosse exactly is, I can’t wait to show them.”
Though the team is just starting out, Ellis warned against underestimating them. “I think a lot of opposing teams have this preconceived notion that because we’re a first year team, it’s gonna be an easy win for them, and we’re out here to show them that’s not the case,” she said.
The Fighting Falcons will play the Point University Skyhawks on Friday, Feb. 5 at 5 p.m at Track and Field Stadium on Shelby Street.
Correction: A previous version of this article that ran on page 6 of Issue 9 of The Alabamian incorrectly stated in the headline that the first Lacrosse game was Monday, Feb. 1 instead of the corrected Friday, Feb. 5.