ALBANY — There were no seniors on last season’s roster for the University at Albany women’s lacrosse program, leaving the Great Danes able to get off to a fast start during their fall-ball season.
“We kept the same team and added nine freshmen,” UAlbany head coach Katie Rowan said earlier this week after one of her team’s practices. “It’s been really competitive.”
That makes sense for a group that brings so much back from its 2019 season, which saw the Great Danes finish — for the seventh consecutive year — as runner-up to Stony Brook in the America East Conference tournament. From that team that finished 11-7, UAlbany returns nine all-conference selections, including the conference’s offensive player of the year in senior Madison Conway and the America East’s top rookie in sophomore Hailey Carroll.
“It’s been a great start because we didn’t lose anybody,” said senior Sam Tortora, UAlbany’s all-time leader in career assists. “We’ve just added some great players.”
As part of its fall season, UAlbany will compete on several occasions. UAlbany’s first fall-ball scrimmages took place Sept. 21 against Bucknell and Cornell, while the program’s alumni game takes place this Saturday.
“It was good to get everyone some early experience, to play some different teams and get a sense of what we need to focus on,” Rowan said of her team’s first competitions of the fall.
On Oct. 13, UAlbany will play at Princeton against the host school, USC and Rutgers. Later in the month, UAlbany will play at Harvard against the host school, Boston College and Hofstra. The Great Danes’ fall action concludes with a home matchup on Oct. 25 against Marist.
UAlbany projects to bring a 41-deep roster into its 2020 season. This fall, though, the Great Danes are without junior Kendra Harbinger, one of the team’s stars. Harbinger — who scored 36 goals and had 19 assists last season — joined UAlbany’s women’s soccer program this year and is competing throughout the fall with head coach Nick Bochette’s team.
“She’s full-go with soccer,” Rowan said. “She comes, though, when she has an off day to be with the team.”
The top challenge for the Great Danes this fall is to bring along its freshmen. Despite UAlbany returning all of its starters from the 2019 season, Tortora said the team’s nine freshmen have competed at a high level from the start.
“There’s not a big drop off between upperclassmen and freshmen,” Tortora said. “We got going right away.”
Rowan, now in her second year leading UAlbany’s program, credited the team’s seniors such as Tortora for helping make that process a smooth one.
“The upperclassmen have done a really good job leading [the freshmen] and getting them used to our culture, our drills and how we do things here,” Rowan said.