LOUDONVILLE — Siena women’s lacrosse head coach Abby Rehfuss laughed when asked it.
The question: Coach, are you more anxious or excited ahead of the team’s season-opening weekend of games?
“That’s a good question,” Rehfuss said earlier this week. “Honestly, it’s a 50-50 split. I’m excited because I’m just excited that we have the opportunity to play; I’m excited the girls have the opportunity to play.
“But I’m anxious in the sense that the last MAAC game we played was the MAAC championship game in 2019. So we really don’t know what any MAAC team is going to look like this year.”
Siena was 3-4 last year in non-conference games before its season was shut down due to concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Saints open their 2021 season 11 a.m. Saturday against Canisius at Hickey Field, the first of back-to-back games against the visiting squad this weekend.
While other teams have been playing games for weeks, Siena only started practicing in mid-February. The Saints, though, have enough talent to win right away. Siena was picked to finish in third place in the MAAC preseason poll, but many of the core players from the program’s record-setting 2019 season are still with Rehfuss’ team, such as senior Kerry Gerety and fifth-year Annie Brennan.
“I like our chances this year,” Rehfuss said. “But this year, it’s about winning, but it’s also about staying COVID-free.”
As long as its top players stayed healthy and with the program, 2021 always projected as a year that the Saints should contend for the MAAC championship. Brennan opting to take advantage of the extra year of playing eligibility the NCAA granted all spring athletes who had their seasons canceled last year was a major bonus for Rehfuss’ program.
“She’s picked up right where she left off,” Rehfuss said of Brennan, who had 15 goals and six assists in 2020’s abbreviated season. “She’s really just such a force on the field.”
So, too, are Gerety and senior Nicole McNeely who led the Saints in 2019 to their MAAC runner-up finish. While the Saints have plenty of veteran stars back for this season, Rehfuss said several freshmen will play key roles right away for her team, such as Taryn Asselin, Laura Bonomo, Rebecca Gilhooley and Grace Nothnagle.
“We definitely have the pieces,” Rehfuss said.
Canisius was picked to finish in seventh place in the MAAC. Monmouth was picked to win the conference, while Fairfield was the other program picked ahead of the Saints.
Siena’s schedule for the 2021 regular season consists of 12 MAAC games. The Saints will play several teams multiple times, including three games against Marist.