Nick McAdam, Assistant Sports Editor
The Utica College women’s lacrosse team finished last year with a loss to Stevens in the Empire 8 Tournament by a score of 19-8. Brushing that aside is head coach Kristin St. Hilaire’s team, who are starting this year with a record of 8-2.
To put that into perspective, the team has nearly matched their win total from last year with six games remaining in the regular season. Along the way, Utica has amassed 146 goals, 334 shots, 33.4 shots per game and a .437 shot percentage versus an opponent average of .350.
Individual contributions are also contributing to the overall success of the Pioneers thus far as over five players on the team have 20 goals or more. On the defensive end, goalkeeper Hali Vandermeulen currently boasts 88 saves for a .557 save percentage while making every start for Utica this season.
Strong performances on the field start on the sideline with St. Hilaire, who recently collected her 100th win as a coach in a 22-0 beat down of Sage College.
“Getting the 100th win was a great feeling,” St. Hilaire said. “Every victory is special, but a milestone like that allows me to take a moment to reflect on all the players, assistant coaches and personnel who have been a part of this great journey.”
Junior player Devon Burri credits a lot of the team’s success so far to the dedication of St. Hilaire.
“Coach is really good at keeping us on a tight schedule during practice and getting us prepared so that each game we play, there is nothing that is happening that we were not prepared for,” Burri said.
The team knows that they need to maintain the same recipe for success throughout the remainder of the season. The Pioneers have six games left before the Empire 8 Tournament, five of which are conference opponents.
First-year defender Ginamarie Pizza wants the positive attitudes and the communication skills to continue throughout the push for postseason play.
“To maintain our success, I think we need to keep the team climate as positive as it has been,” Pizza said. “We’re really good at realizing when we’re not working to our potential and fixing that problem early, and the maintenance of that, as well as our thorough communication skills, will ensure our success for the rest of the season.”
St. Hilaire shared similar thoughts and wants the team to stay in the right mindset going forward.
“One of the key factors of our success this year is staying level-headed in intense moments or when things are not going our way,” St. Hilaire said. “We will need that mental strength to continue our success throughout the tough conference schedule.”
According to Burri, the family atmosphere is driving the team forward at the moment. The rest of the skills mentioned stem from everybody who contributes to the team’s culture off and on the field.
“We couldn’t do it without all the support from our coaches, Nate from SPI, our family members and our teammates,” Burri said. “We are one big family that I am honored to be a part of.”
The tangibles along the way are guiding the team towards its goal of climbing back to the Empire 8 Tournament and getting revenge. St. Hilaire said the team’s motto is to consistently make sure everyone has the same goals to boost the team atmosphere.
“In the past, our motto has been ‘Play in May’ because our goal has been to qualify for the Empire 8 Tournament,” St. Hilaire said. “Our goals have shifted and now we are striving to ‘Win in May.’”