The consensus among the University at Albany women’s lacrosse players is that experience is overrated.
Skill is not.
The Great Danes earned the program’s first-ever at-large bid into the NCAA tournament this season, and will face Penn in the opening round at Syracuse Friday at 2 p.m., but UAlbany lacks the typical senior-laiden roster. There are only four seniors and a graduate student on a team that went 14-4.
More interesting is a glance at the Great Danes’ high-powered offense that includes eight players with at least 11 goals. Senior Maureen Keggins has 36 goals, 58 assists and 94 points, but she has plenty of help in junior midfielder
Rachel Bowles (53-18-71) and sophomore attack Dakotah Savitcheff (64-3-67).
“We have a young team,” said Bowles. “But we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have experience on your team, but you have to have confidence, and you can’t get flustered under pressure.”
“We have a lot of players who can score on this team,” said Keggins. “You can’t just try to stop one of us.”
UAlbany head coach John Battaglino admitted that he wasn’t sure his team would earn an at-large bid to the NCAAs after losing to rival Stony Brook in the America East Conference tournament finals, but he felt the Great Danes achieved enough along the way to make the tournament committee take notice.
“First of all, we played a good schedule. We took on anyone who would play us. Our chemistry has been great,” said Battaglino. “It took us a little while, because we are so young, but they found each other very well. So many of the players defined their roles as the season went on, and we have so much talent.”
Battaglino marveled at how his key players adjusted their games.
“The game slowed down for Maureen, and it became a lot easier for her,” he said. “And Rachel Bowles was moved on top after playing a different position last year, when she was named player of the year. That’s quite an achievement.”
Battaglino added that his defense also played a role in the Great Danes’ run.
“Our defense has improved each game. We had a few lapses against Vermont, but that can happen to any team,” he said.
“I’m a demanding coach, and I push them hard. But they handled it well. I wanted them to be tough. Penn will be a tough, physical team. You have to try to force your will on the other team and make them play your game.”
Finally, Battaglino said his youthful team has been successful because of its ability to change on the fly.
“I want them to make things happen on their own. Sometimes, I’m on the other side of the field, and I can’t yell all the changes to them,” he said. “Making adjustments is key. I know they can make the right adjustments by themselves. I know they can do it on the field and by themselves. They are making the right reads, and they understand the game now. That’s all I can ask.”
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Categories: College Sports