Dutch lacrosse forging ahead
The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael
On the run to defend Bethlehem’s Kaylee Rickert, left, are Michelle Burmistrova (#11) and Micaela Jones of Guilderland during Tuesday’s lacrosse game. The Dutch won, 18 to 7, and Jones scored three goals, including one after an amazing spin move past two defenders.
GUILDERLAND — Over a two-week stretch in April, the Guilderland girls’ lacrosse team faced adversity in the form of three one-goal losses to Bethlehem, Niskayuna, and Shaker. Two of those defeats came in overtime after the Dutch had held a lead in the final moments of regulation play.
However, after a convincing 18-to-7 victory over Bethlehem at home on Tuesday night, the Dutch (9-3, 10-4) seem to have righted the ship as it looks to defend its Class A championship.
Until this season, Guilderland hadn’t lost a regular-season Suburban Council game in seven years.
“It’s a transition year for us; we lost an important senior class from last year so everyone on this team has had to step up,” said senior Morgan Hardt, who scored three goals on Tuesday. “About the losses, they’ve motivated us, and we’ve really pinpointed out what we’ve done wrong in those games, tweak them in practice, and then come out in the next game and try to be flawless.”
Dutch Head Coach Carrie Britt told The Enterprise that her players are no longer playing for players who have graduated from Guilderland. Britt said that the Dutch have discovered what is truly important about lacrosse.
“They are playing in this season, the game before them, and going after the ball,” Britt said. “It seems so simple, but so often kids run to a certain spot on the field because they’re trained to run a certain offense, or they get to a certain location to defend. Getting them to recognize that it’s a fluid game, changing in dynamic, and playing in the moment is a real maturity level that has changed throughout the season.”
Guilderland’s second game against Bethlehem (5-8, 5-9) on Tuesday was drastically different from the first. The Dutch made very few mistakes, had an aggressive defense, and scored goals with panache.
Hardt, spending her fourth year with the team, said that the level of intensity made the difference.
“In the beginning [of the season] we were like, ‘Oh, we have a game today,’ but now, in the hallways at school, we’re like, ‘It’s game day! It’s game day!’” added senior Katie Becker, who scored four goals with one assist on Tuesday. “We are so hyped up to play that we can barely sit in class and focus. We’re that much more excited every time we step onto the field.”
Becker said that it was a “big shock” when Guilderland went down to Bethlehem on April 4, but the defeat made the team realize the significance of leadership.
“We have a young team, so we wanted the younger girls to feel like part of our team,” said Becker on Tuesday. “We wanted them to be confident on the field; it was our job to get everyone hyped up for every game, and be ready to play. That has helped us to come back and win like this.”
Guilderland had a 9-to-1 lead at halftime, and Britt said that it was one of the Dutch’s strongest halves of the season. In the second half, Hardt scored on a rocket shot from a free position, Micaela Jones scored after splitting two defenders with an athletic spin move, and excitement was in the air.
“The more excited everyone gets, the better atmosphere it is for everyone else,” Hardt said. “It’s our responsibility to get everyone going.”
A lacrosse game is won on draws, ground balls, and heart, Britt said.
“We’ve learned to play together, and to play for 50 minutes,” said Britt. “You have to play for each other, and now we’re doing that. You can’t win by trying as hard as you can by yourself. Early in the season, they were trying so hard by themselves. Now, they’re trying as a team.”
Coming into 2014 as defending champions, the Guilderland players may have thought that other teams would get out of their way and roll over.
“Then, we lose to Bethlehem and Niskayuna, and maybe that’s not the case,” Becker said. “It was time for us to step up and play like champions.”
Since girls’ lacrosse has absolute possession, Britt said, it could be easy for a player to watch someone else that has the ball.
“Especially if it’s a player you look up to but we can’t play with just the players that are going to college,” said Britt. “We need all 12 players working hard together, and it took a couple of bumps for us to get there.”
With three league losses and one non-league loss (Longmeadow) this season, Hardt said it has been kind of fun for Guilderland to act like the underdog. However, the Dutch may be far from that sort of tag.
“We come out with a chip on our shoulder every day,” said Hardt. “We’re 10 times more fired up, and our potential is endless. It’s such a short season that you really need to capitalize on every game — what you did wrong and what you did right.”
Britt said that senior goalie, Kaitlyn Hess, who had nine saves on Tuesday, started to pull the defense together after senior Brittney Pulliam went down with a season-ending knee injury. Another senior defender, Jody Madsen, was also out of Tuesday’s game with an injury.
Hess, said Britt, is “very much a student of the game, and she has been pushing herself and improving herself consistently throughout the season. Kaitlyn hasn’t blinked an eye, and I’m so proud of her for taking that responsibility of a team leader.”
Hardt said that leadership isn’t just for the Guilderland captains or the seniors; it’s to be embraced by everyone on the team.
“We’re miles ahead of where we were before,” Becker added. “We just had to amp things up.”
During Tuesday’s game, Britt sensed her players were thinking of what they could bring to the field in certain situations. It could be anything from cutting off the ball, getting in position to double a player, or keeping a defender occupied.
When a Guilderland player isn’t moving her feet, Britt will most likely ask her if she needs a rest.
“If every single player is on point during a game, you can’t be stopped,” said Britt. “It’s only when the players sit back that they can be defeated.”
Becker and Hardt were both in agreement: Guilderland hasn’t peaked yet.
“If we keep this up, there is no one who is going to stop us,” said Becker.
What are the chances that the Dutch make its eighth Section 2 title game appearance in a row?
“Look, I lost by two goals with 40 seconds left on the clock,” said Britt, referring to Guilderland’s overtime loss to Shaker on April 16; Shaker is undefeated. “I would like another shot.”
Nevertheless, it’s not what Britt wants, she said, it’s what the Dutch want.
“I will try to give them everything that they want, and I really think they do,” said Britt. “And they don’t want it because they’re expected to win; no one expects them to do anything because they’ve put that behind them.”
In sports, every team wants to win, but how can that desire be realized?
“There are people who want things, and people who go after it,” Britt concluded. “This is a game where it’s not enough to want it, and I think the girls have found a way to go after it.”