Women’s lacrosse is appreciative of number 3 ranking but taking it with “a grain of salt”

After reaching the NCAA national semifinals last year, the women’s lacrosse team opens the 2018 season as the third-ranked team in the coaches’ preseason poll

Jimmie Mack Johnson III

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The Washington and Lee women’s lacrosse team was picked third in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) 2018 Division III pre-season coaches poll released Jan. 29.

The IWLCA coaches poll is the one of the most respected polls in women’s lacrosse. Its rankings are based upon voting from Division III coaches across the country.

Head Washington and Lee women’s lacrosse Coach Brooke O’Brien said the high ranking is a nice homage to the team’s accomplishments of last season and to the talent returning this year, but she said she understands it has no impact on the upcoming season.

“We definitely look at [the rankings] with a grain of salt,” she said.

The Generals know firsthand how little these preseason predictions matter. After beginning the season unranked in this poll last year, the women had one of their most accomplished years in program history with a program best 19-2 overall record, an eighth straight ODAC championship and a first ever NCAA national semifinal appearance where they fell in double overtime to eventual runner-up, The College of New Jersey.

Midfielder Giddings Harrison, ’20, said the loss was tough, but she is working to give the Generals extra fuel for the upcoming season.

“To lose in double overtime…we were so close to everything that we worked towards and then it just ended so abruptly,” she said. “I think that feeling is definitely motivating us.”

The team will be returning six all-ODAC honorees from last year’s historic season in midfielder Haley Tucker, ’19, defender Riley Garcia, ’18, attacker Jess Castelo, ’18, midfielder Cordelia Peters, ’19, defender Caitlin Anderson, ’20 and goalkeeper Elliot Gilbert, ’20.

Tucker, a first team All-American last year and a team captain this year, said the team is using its high preseason ranking to help get through tough pre-season practices.

“It does give us confidence just knowing we have to work hard to keep that ranking,” she said.

Coming off a historic final four appearance last season, O’Brien said she believes the program is ready to take the next step this year.

“Our goal is to win a national championship,” she said.

Tucker also believes a national championship is attainable, but she stresses the team has to stay focused on the present and continue to work hard every day.

“It’s really easy to get caught up in our end goal and end result of the season,” she said. “Just taking it day by day, game by game and opponent by opponent and not looking too far down the road [is important.]”

The team will have excellent competition keeping its players focused every week, as the Generals will face seven teams within the IWLCA pre-season top 25, including a matchup with last year’s national champion Gettysburg on March 11.

With a number three ranking and goals of a national championship, the team has a clear vision of where it wants to be at the end of May. But right now, O’Brien said the team is concentrating on pre-season practice and preparing for its first game.

“We are focused on the process, focused on getting better every day, and right now, for our first opponent, Mary Washington,” she said.