Willamette Athletics made history when its first-ever women’s lacrosse team took to the field with the support of the athletic department and WU student body, on Sunday, Feb. 24. In a 16-5 win over Johnson & Wales University, three different players scored four goals. The Bearcats got off to a hot start in this game, with the first goal being shot within the first minute and a half by first-year midfielder Miranda Piros.
As Piros made this shot, she thought about the game and the six months of practicing she and her team underwent. After she scored, Piros said, “It hit [me] how exciting and special that moment was.”
Coach Sarah Lautenbach commented after the impressive debut. “While we have a lot to improve upon from this game as we move further into the season, we are very happy with the players’ growth thus far,” Lautenbach said. She was also happy with the way the team transitioned from practice to playing a real game.
Sophomore Anabel Ohsman, who was one of the three scorers, said that the game “was so exciting for us as a team.” She also mentioned that she was very appreciative of the support from the Willamette community and that “the hype made it that much more fun.”
WU’s goalkeeper senior Kara Phillips who made two saves during the game, said that it feels incredible to be a part of Willamette’s first lacrosse team. “We get a unique opportunity to create our own culture that will last for years to come,” said Phillips.
This game was the culmination of several years of effort to bring a lacrosse team to Willamette. According to Willamette University’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Rob Passage, there are several factors that go into the process of making a new sports team. This includes the growth of youth participation, interest of the athletes at Willamette and gaining regional competition. As an expanding sport throughout the nation, lacrosse fits all these descriptions. Passage said that the process of bringing a team to Willamette was really accelerated when head coach Lautenbach was hired in the summer of 2017.
“She and her assistant coach, Annie Longtain, have done a fantastic job of recruiting new students to our team,” said Passage.
Coach Longtain has been involved with lacrosse almost her whole life. After falling in love with the sport in the fourth grade, she played all through high school and her years at the University of Oregon. Longtain has experience with coaching before Willamette, having coached a youth team during her high school years and a high school club during college.
Longtain said that it’s an “awesome feeling,” being able to coach for the first lacrosse team at Willamette. She is excited about the potential of her team, adding that the “team really supports each other and works hard every day.”
As the women’s lacrosse team hopes to build upon the success of their first game, Passage said he is always on the lookout for new sports. There is even a permanent survey located on the Willamette Athletics website for what sports people would like to see. As of right now, the only new sport on the way is the women’s triathlon, which starts in the fall of 2021. Passage believes that the lacrosse team is a great opportunity not only for the athletes who already play the sport, but also those trying to find a second sport. He also showed his appreciation for Willamette’s community and after observing the first game said, “I loved the support that the community showed at our first home match.” He hopes to see this support continue throughout the rest of spring.
The Bearcats played their second game of the season against Wartburg College yesterday, March 5, at 6 p.m. on Sparks Field. Ohsman and Piros proved themselves once again to be valuable assets to the team, both scoring three goals each. Wartburg took an early 2-0 lead at the beginning of the game, but through the efforts of Piros and Ohsman, the Bearcats tied the game 4-4 before halftime. Wartburg surged forward in the second half, grabbing the lead immediately and holding onto it for the remainder of the game.
With less than three minutes left in the game, the Knights took a three-point lead. Sophomore Alayna Newland scored twice in a span of 40 seconds to bring the score to 9-8, but time expired before the Bearcats could tie the game, resulting in their first loss of the season. An extended recap of the game will be posted in next week’s issue of The Collegian.