LOUDONVILLE — Short on numbers, not on wins.
That’s the deal this spring for the Siena College women’s lacrosse program, which only had 16 players in uniform when it recorded its fourth win in five games Saturday at Monmouth. The victory set the Saints up for a big week, as a program that has only registered two winning seasons in its history has a chance to end this week atop the MAAC standings.
“We just want to keep it going,” Siena senior Sammy Horton, the team’s goalie, said in advance of the Saints’ game 3 p.m. Wednesday at Quinnipiac.
“We really want to make the [MAAC] tournament this year,” sophomore Nicole McNeely said. “All of us who were freshmen last year, we didn’t make it. We don’t know how that feels.”
Since starting varsity play in 1997, winning consistently hasn’t been something known to the program head coach Abby Rehfuss now leads. Siena didn’t record its first winning season until it went 11-7 in 2005, and didn’t repeat a winning campaign until 2015, when it went 10-8. In 18 of the program’s first 22 seasons, it lost at least 10 games.
In Rehfuss’ first season, the Saints went 1-7 in MAAC play and 5-12 overall. This year, Siena is 4-1 in league play and 8-5 overall.
“Winning is a habit, but losing is a habit, too,” Rehfuss said. “So it was about weeding out some of those bad habits that had permeated the culture we’d had here for a while. We had to identify those things and change them.”
That’s been an ongoing process for the Saints, who are competing this year with a shortened roster after a number of players left the program following the coaching change from Bryana Borrelli to Rehfuss. Siena’s numbers will grow significantly for next season — Rehfuss said she plans to bring in more than 10 players as part of her first full recruiting class — but the Saints have made the best of their reduced roster for this year.
“Everyone feels like they have an immediate role,” Rehfuss said.
“We have the same players, mostly, but we have a smaller team [than last year] and that’s brought us all closer together,” Siena sophomore Kerry Gerety said. “It’s completely different, and it’s 100 times better. We’re all working that much harder in practice because we don’t have that many people, and we’re going that much harder in the games because we have such a small bench.”
Talent, though, is there for the Saints who were picked to finish in seventh place in the MAAC, but sit in second place a half-game behind Fairfield — Saturday’s 3 p.m. opponent for Siena — in the conference. Gerety and Horton have each won conference weekly awards, while three Saints — redshirt freshman Kaitlyn Dowsett, Gerety and McNeely — have already surpassed 30 points on the season.
“We’re a complete unit,” Horton said. “Offensively and defensively, we’re all meshing. There’s no negativity.”
“We all want the same thing,” McNeely said.
Rehfuss credited her team captains — junior Annie Brennan and senior Annie Fiorillo — for the Saints’ camaraderie. Each of the Saints, though, deserves a piece of the credit for a Siena season that is on track to be one of the program’s best in its history.
“They’ve definitely exceeded what I thought,” Rehfuss said. “Not because I was blinded to our potential, but I just thought it would take us longer to reach it.”
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.
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