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2019 Season Outlook: How are the Top Teams Stacking Up?
After months of late night practices, Saturday workouts, scrimmages, strategy sessions and lots of team bonding, it all kicks off this weekend. The 2019 college lacrosse season is here.
This year, reigning champs James Madison are eager to defend their title, legacy program Syracuse is eyeing a comeback, the Princeton Tigers face their toughest season yet, and the Florida Gators continue to astound with their rapid rise as a serious contender in DI women’s lacrosse.
2019 will bring the Princeton Tigers’ toughest season yet — and require a strong execution as they look to secure their sixth consecutive Ivy League Championship and a deep seed in the NCAA tournament.
Keeping things fresh this season, the Tigers added two new teams to their schedule — the Florida Gators and Stony Brook Seawolves — for what’s arguably the most competitive line-up in Princeton Lacrosse history, including face-offs against the Maryland Terps and Penn State Nittany Lions.
How will they tackle the new competition? Head Coach Chris Sailer says she’s focused on creating high intensity practices that require players to communicate, make decisions and execute, even when fatigued. With a talented freshman class, strong upperclassmen leadership, and a commitment to maintaining their legacy of academic and athletic excellence, Princeton fans can rest assured that the team will be ready to take on any opponent.
“Our biggest goal is ultimately to play as well as we can every time we step on the field — to play with passion, grit and intelligence,” said Sailer. “Success this season will be feeling like we left it all on the field each and every game.”
Heading into the new season as 2018 NCAA Champions, the JMU Dukes are ready to defend their title and show a little more of who they are as a squad this season.
Juniors Kelsey Reed and Maddie McDaniel join seniors Caroline Sdanowich and Hanna Haven as captains of the 2019 squad. Anchored with strong returns on the defensive end of the field, and a core group of freshman already showing promise from the goal to midfield to attack, we can expect a fierce display of competitiveness and unwavering passion from the Dukes.
“I want our team to stay humble, and never forget that little girl who picked up a stick and fell in love with this game called ‘lacrosse’,” said Head Coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe. “I want our athletes to love this game and love the fight that they get to show playing as a team for JMU.”
With several core players back from injury and strong freshman additions, 2019 is set to be a year of growth for the Syracuse Orange as they focus on developing championship caliber chemistry and taking their game to the next level.
Coaching legend Gary Gait is headed into his second decade of Orange lacrosse, and is committed to starting fresh, eying a comeback from last season’s 8-9 record. Starters will be a mix of players from every class and Gait is confident in the diverse experience of their coaching staff and new senior leadership to carry the team to the Final Four.
He’s also committed to setting his players up for future success and leadership in the sport.
“The game is in an exciting time with collegiate growth and the development of professional lacrosse. There are starting to be some tremendous opportunities for graduating college players,” said Gait.
It’s hard to believe the Florida Gators only played their first season back in 2010. Fast forward nine years later, and the Florida Gators are already a powerhouse in the sport, appearing in the NCAA tournament eight out of nine seasons.
So, what’s their winning strategy? The Gators’ success lies in understanding and celebrating the differences between each player — and cultivating respect for one another, on and off the field.
“I want our program to be known for developing smart, articulate and wonderful young women who also happen to be great lacrosse players,” said Gators’ Head Coach Amanda O’Leary.
This year, the Gators have nine seniors leading the pack, with a mix of personalities and leadership styles that O’Leary believes will be key to success.
“We have those who lead by example and we have vocal leaders. I think it’s important to have a variety of different leadership qualities and we check that box,” said O’Leary. “This is a really fun and entertaining team. I love every minute I get to spend with them. They are hard working and have a willingness to improve each day.”
Tune in to The Season 2019 to follow the Gators’ journey this season and learn more about the team’s rise to elite status and unique chemistry.
No matter who takes home the title, one thing's for sure: we can expect hot competition and continued growth for the women’s game this season. Who will come out on top? Follow the teams and rankings all season long here.
Ever wonder what it’s like to play for an elite program? Click here to watch the STX tour cam for an inside look at more of the top programs and their practice spaces.