LOUDONVILLE — They won’t be perfect.
Siena women’s lacrosse head coach Abby Rehfuss doesn’t want the Saints to be that, anyway, in Tuesday’s season-opening game. After Siena made steady progress throughout a 2019 season that ended with a trip to the MAAC tournament championship game, the plan is to follow that same path with a group that brings experience and talent into its 2020 campaign.
“We don’t want Tuesday to be our best game of the season,” Rehfuss said Monday. “We hope it’s good, but our goal is to peak in May and get progressively better as the season goes on.”
Coming off a 12-7 season that marked only the program’s third winning season in 23 years of varsity play, the Saints start their 2020 campaign at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Brown, an Ivy League opponent that won its opener against Bryant and recently had junior Risa Mosenthal named to the Tewaaraton Award watch list. Siena will play its home opener Saturday vs. Columbia.
A year ago, Siena finished 4-4 during its non-conference season, a .500 mark the Saints want to better this season.
“With the way that we’ve structured the [non-conference] schedule, obviously, we have some tougher competition that we’ll face — and we welcome that — but I don’t think we have a game on the schedule that we don’t think we can win,” Rehfuss said. “We know some are more challenging than others, but, really, we’re looking at our non-conference schedule as preparing us for our conference.”
Siena fielded a small roster for last season. The Saints have added multiple transfers to their team — including junior starting goalie Ally Mervine, who previously played at Oregon — and 10 freshmen.
“We have a lot of new girls, so getting everyone’s focus on the same thing throughout the fall was a big thing we worked on,” Siena junior Nicole McNeely said.
In the last month, the Saints have built off that foundation.
“Preseason is a grind,” Siena senior Annie Brennan said. “That’s four weeks where we’re not seeing competition other than ourselves, so we’ve been focusing on working together and building upon that chemistry we left off with in the fall.”
McNeely scored 70 points last season and classmate Kerry Gerety scored 72, which ranked as the two highest-scoring seasons in the program’s history. While at least two of the team’s freshmen — Bethlehem High School graduate Jenna Colabufo and Guilderland High School graduate Amanda Nieman — will play significant roles for the Saints, Siena returns nearly all of its key players from last season.
Nieman, Rehfuss said, will likely start in place of fellow Guilderland graduate Hayley Kmack, a junior who will miss the season after undergoing surgery for a torn ACL.
“Everybody else,” Rehfuss said, “is at full strength.”
While they expect to leave their opening game with a list of areas on which they can improve, the Saints also expect to compete at a high level. Last season’s success only left them wanting more of it.
“We still have that confidence,” Brennan said, “and it’s going to build as we get playing.”