On a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon, while many students found themselves sitting inside with a bowl of chicken noodle soup and Netflix, the JMU lacrosse team was busy serving up a crucial 20-7 win over the visiting San Diego State University Aztecs.
This triumph, paired with an 8-7 last-minute win over the University of Richmond on Wednesday, leaves the Dukes with a 6-5 winning record just in time for conference play.
There was magic in the air on a day when the Dukes honored Elle Howdershell, their 2014 Friends of Jaclyn Foundation teammate, who lost her battle to cancer in October. After a pre-game ceremony, a fresher-looking JMU team seemed to be ignited.
“San Diego State looked fast and they looked aggressive in transition,” head coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe said when discussing San Diego State’s game film. “We knew we were going to have to play a strong defensive effort today.”
The Dukes’ best defensive effort? An incredible offense. In much of the season, lacrosse has had a tough time getting inside to take shots on goal. However, this game brought a big change of pace.
JMU and San Diego State started trading blows early, until a goal by redshirt freshman attacker Betsy Angel sparked an 8-0 run for the Dukes after the Aztecs held a 2-1 lead just 2:39 into the first half.
After weather interruptions forced the first of three delays in the game, San Diego State rallied for a 3-0 run against JMU. Just as the Aztecs seemed to be catching up, only trailing 9-5, the Dukes broke loose on another 8-0 run that would seal the deal.
“We did a really good job today of sharing the ball and getting a lot of different looks,” Angel said
A highlight of the game came when senior attacker Amy Roguski notched her 100th career goal at the 23:13 minute mark with a powerful shot into the back of the net after being awarded a free-position off an Aztec foul.
She would end the contest scoring a total of three goals, tallying 101 career goals, and making her mark in the JMU lacrosse history books.
The Dukes’ secret weapon, who was unleashed mid-season — Angel — who led the team with a career-high four goals in the game.
Junior defender Lexi Cross and freshman midfielder Margaret Tucker Fogarty also got chances at the net as they both scored for the first time in their careers, chipping in one goal apiece.
Klaes-Bawcombe put heavy emphasis on the Dukes’ preparation leading up to the game.
“We really pushed them. We had a tough practice on Thursday, we ran them hard,” she said. “We told them they weren’t allowed to celebrate that Richmond win … Then we asked them to start opening up as a team on what it’s going to take for us to come together.”
And they truly came together. One key piece to JMU’s win was its ability to convert. The Aztecs handed the Dukes six foul shot attempts and they converted on five of them.
JMU also found solidarity in an area it had been struggling in all season: the transition game. More than once, the team was able to send down stair-step passes that effortlessly glided from the defense, through the midfield and then straight down to the offense.
This brilliant transition allowed JMU to clear the ball from one side of the field to the other 13 out of 14 times. San Diego State would finish completing only seven out of its 11 clear attempts.
The purple and gold defense also performed more than its fair share of containing the Aztecs. Senior defender Leah Perrotta forced three of the Dukes’ seven caused turnovers. Junior goalkeeper Schylar Healy was awarded with the win — she accumulated eight saves and only allowed seven goals.
After suffering a four game losing streak, JMU has scraped up two wins in its final battles of nonconference play before heading into Colonial Athletic Association territory.
“Shelley [Klaes-Bawcombe] always talks to us about peaking at the right time,” Angel said. “I would say that we are doing just that going into conference play.”
The first CAA game of the season will be against the visiting College of William & Mary. Play between the two teams has always had a rather interesting history, but this year it will be taken personally. Last year’s former co-captain and defender for JMU, Amanda Matthews, is now an assistant coach for the Tribe’s women’s lacrosse team.
Not only will this clash include great speed and persistence; it will also be an even greater challenge to overcome a team who knows all of the ins-and-outs of the JMU offense.
“We know they’re going to have all the information they need on our program so we just have to go in ready to fight,” Klaes-Bawcombe said.
The Dukes will host the Tribe on Saturday, April 5 at 1 p.m. This will be the last game at U-Park before the team heads out for a pair of conference road games.
Contact Kathleen Maniatakis at firstname.lastname@example.org.