Published: Feb 6, 2014
Twenty-seven of the 34-person roster are UT freshman.
When women’s lacrosse coach Kelly Gallagher started recruiting for her first team, she said it didn’t take very much convincing.
“I was pretty much selling hopes and dreams,” said Gallagher, though hopes and dreams backed up by UT’s academic and athletic reputation. Being in Florida wasn’t a tough sell though, nor was the chance for the students to put their name on something.
“They are taking responsibility for the reputation of the team,” Gallagher said. “They want to build something here that’ll last forever.”
The women’s lacrosse team
will begin its history Sunday, Feb. 9, with its first game against Rollins College. The game starts at 2 p.m. at the Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex.
The athletes said having the chance to play for UT has both its challenges and advantages.
“We get to put our name on the University’s first-ever women’s lacrosse team, we’re starting all of our own traditions for this program, and we get to experience everything for the first time together,” said Kirsten Brierley ’15, an advertising and public relations major from East Hampton, NY.
“I think our biggest challenge will to be to prove to everyone that we are far more than just a beginning program, but that we have enough talent and team chemistry to do something great,” said Mackenzie Perna ’17, a marketing major from Rogers, MN.
Twenty-seven of the 34-person roster are UT freshman. Aside from being young, the roster itself is pretty big by national standards, which hovers around 25.
“I like depth,” Gallagher said. "We can go full field at practice, and it will benefit us in the long run.”
Gallagher came to UT in October 2012 and has spent the last year and almost half putting a framework on her lacrosse program. Not only did she recruit players, but she considered the support network needed for her young team. For example, she situated the lacrosse team’s lockers next to the volleyball and basketball teams — groups that are strongly cohesive with great records — as a way to facilitate mentorship.
“One of my big coaching philosophies is to help young women leave their mark and become someone the University would be proud of,” Gallagher said.
The months since Gallagher’s arrival have flown by — she said she can hardly believe Sunday is right around the corner.
“It’s become really real in the last week,” Gallagher said. “In a way I’m just a freshman too. I’m just as excited.”
While they have goals for number of wins and particular schools to beat, Gallagher’s biggest objectives center around quality rather than quantity.
“I want to see us improve every day,” she said. “And when the other team leaves the field, I want them to think that we’re a hardworking team.”
This shouldn’t be hard to do, given the burning desire of the team to make a name for themselves.
“As freshmen, we are building a core of players that will strengthen and grow over the next four years,” said Alexis D’Amico ’17, a business marketing major from Voorhees, NJ. “Upon graduation, I will be able to look back at the legacy that I helped create.”
As a sport, women’s lacrosse does little more than share a name with the men’s version. In the women’s version, all players use the same size stick, the game is less physical (body contact is more in line with soccer or basketball) and when the whistle blows, all ladies have to stop on the field (rather than reposition themselves) until the whistle blows again. Oh, and they’ll be wearing skirts.
“Women's lacrosse is a very fast-paced sport, which makes it very entertaining to watch,” Brierley said. “We also may be running around in skirts, but things can get pretty aggressive when you’re fighting to get that ball in the back of the net.”
Next to Gallagher in the stands of the Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex on Sunday, will be her family cheering her on, not just with loving support but with a professional eye for the sport.
Her dad, who played on one of the first high school lacrosse teams in Ohio and who coaches a high school team, her younger brother, who is starting the men’s lacrosse program at Muskingum College, also in Ohio, and her mother, a long-time supporter of her family’s athletes as well as currently her region’s U.S. Lacrosse chapter president, all bring an educated perspective to Gallagher’s coaching.
“At the end of the day I’m the luckiest person in the world,” Gallagher said. “I get to live the dream every day.”
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