ALBANY — As a senior, Shonly Wallace led the University of Oregon women’s lacrosse team in points last season. But besides not having graduate school communications courses she was interested in, Oregon also didn’t have something that UAlbany did: a reasonable chance at an NCAA Tournament bid.
That led Wallace, from Mission, British Columbia, back to the America East for a second time, as the 5-foot-1 attacker has joined UAlbany in its attempt this season to win the conference and earn its first tournament bid since 2017.
After having a prominent role on silver-medal-winning Team Canada at the U19 World Championships, Wallace played her freshman season at Stony Brook before transferring to Oregon for the next three seasons. Last year, she finished with 40 goals and 11 assists. She had 13 multi-goal games and made the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team.
“She had been familiar with the program earlier on in her recruiting days,” UAlbany coach Katie Thomson said. “The lacrosse world is just so connected. She reached out, and I had known of her from Team Canada and Stony Brook, so [I] was eager to get connected and talk to her.”
“Certainly one of the biggest things that led me to Albany was the opportunity to play for such amazing coaches who know and played the game so well,” Wallace said. “Coach Thomson is one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and she translates that well into coaching. Who wouldn’t want to play for that?”
Thomson and Wallace agreed that their values aligned.
“They’ve always been a good contender,” Wallace said. “Just really attracted to the mentality of the coaches and what they want to do here. Their goals align with mine. Just thought it was a perfect fit and a place to end my college career.”
And Wallace hopes that will be in the NCAA Tournament, which the Great Danes covet having lost an agonizingly close conference final to Vermont last year, 12-11.
“We’re all really hungry, and I think it’s nice coming onto a team that has something to prove. We’re very driven to make up for last year, so I think it’s nice to have a team that’s really focused on that, and to be in a conference where it is attainable for us to have that goal of winning a conference championship.”
And, Wallace added, that wasn’t possible at Oregon, which made it to the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals, but lost 21-9 to Stanford.
“Pac-12’s a tough conference, right, and it’s a small conference – you’re playing everybody twice. We made it to the semifinal round last year, but Stanford and USC are top 20-ranked teams,” Wallace said.
UAlbany’s players, she added, immediately welcomed her, and that has made her transition on and off the field go smoothly.
“It’s something special that not every team can say, how close we are,” Wallace said. “It’s been a lot of fun. Practice is nice and relaxed and focused. We have fun out here and we have fun together.”
Being back east is also something Wallace appreciates.
“The shift is definitely different from being at a big football school,” Wallace said. “Now you’re back to a blue-collar environment, but I really love that. It’s definitely about the people, and there’s a lot of good people here that work hard and appreciate the little things.”
Wallace said she wants to contribute whatever she can to UAlbany, and is fine with not being every opponent’s primary focus.
“We have so many talented players and threats, especially on our offense, that it just makes all of our jobs easier that it’s not going to come down to one person having to do it. We’re really capable of, altogether, making a lot of good goals happen,” she said.
Both the UAlbany men’s and women’s teams were predicted to finish second in the league’s preseason polls. The men shared second with UMBC, behind two-time defending champion Vermont. In the women’s poll, to reiterate how little separate UAlbany and Vermont, the Great Danes had 33 votes to Vermont’s 34.
Several players from the Union men’s team have earned preseason All-American nods. In Inside Lacrosse’s list, attackman Peter Burnes and short-stick defensive midfielder Jake Titus made the first team; goalie Dan Donahue made the third team; faceoff midfielder Matthew Paolatto made the fourth team; and midfielder Peter Kip made the honorable mention. In USA Lacrosse Magazine’s list, Titus is on the first team and Paolatto is on the second team.
Contact Will Springstead at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @WLSpringstead.
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