Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Women’s lacrosse searches for national title after three years of falling just short

BYU women’s lacrosse was not favored to go far in the 2017 tournament, even though it took place close to home in Salt Lake City.

The Cougars won their first game confidently 17-12 against Virginia, but that feeling quickly faded by the time the second game versus Pittsburgh rolled around. Head coach Nikki Dabrowski said the team members were intimidated by Pittsburgh before they set foot on the pitch. They would go on to lose 11-5 to the Panthers, the eventual tournament winners.

Despite the loss, the Cougars played two more games in the consolation bracket. The games were close wins against rival Colorado State and Michigan. BYU finished the national tournament in fifth place with hopes and expectations for improvement the next year.

2018 was exciting for the Cougars as the team won its regional tournament to gain a second straight bid to nationals. The Cougars faced a different scenery in Round Rock, Texas, but hoped to improve on the previous year’s tournament results.

BYU women’s lacrosse team finished fifth at the 2017 National Tournament in Salt Lake City. (Nikki Dabrowski)

The Cougars again went into the tournament as underdogs, a role embraced by the team. This year, the team displayed more confidence from top to bottom, starting from the coaching staff down to the players.

The Cougars began the tournament with a 13-7 victory over Penn State, and this momentum continued in the Cougars’ favor in their second match. Dabrowski remembered being down by at least six points at halftime to San Diego State, but her captains weren’t willing to settle for a loss. The team overcame a large deficit, eventually winning 12-10 to bring the Cougars into the semifinals.

The next opponent was Virginia, which the Cougars had beaten earlier in the year by one point. Dabroski said it felt like a championship game as the Cougars gave everything they had to prevail over the Cavaliers, 14-13.

Players from the BYU women’s lacrosse team stop for a picture at the 2019 National Tournament. (Nikki Dabrowski)

Attacker Shannon Baker recalled the winning goal from the game.

“The offense was running the ball down. I was on the far-left side of the 12-meter box with the ball searching for players to feed the ball to,” she said. “I knew instantly that (Logan Coon) was the girl. I sent a bullet to her, probably the most accurate pass I’ve ever had, and she caught it right in the sweet spot and quick sticked it into the cage.”

Baker said as she also recalled loud screams emerging from the team and fans as the play ended.

Because of the heat and intensity of the Virginia matchup, the Cougars struggled against undefeated Michigan in the Championship game. They fell 11-7 to the Wolverines — a hard-fought match to end a well-fought season.

“I put everything I had left in me to that game, and I can honestly say I have no regrets from it,” Briana Arnold said of the championship game.

Briana Arnold (Vorkink) scores a goal at the 2018 Nationals. (Briana Vorkink)

Briana Arnold was named the Offensive MVP of the League for her play that season. Dabrowski also said she felt confident in her captains and coaching staff who helped them reach the championship game. Despite the final outcome, the Cougars finished with their best season in program history. The team had eight Academic All-Americans, two National All-Americans, and three All-Tournament players. 2018 was a year to remember.

The Cougars again received a Nationals appearance in Virginia Beach in 2019. It was not a surprise for the Cougars to again win their region and gain a spot at nationals for the third consecutive year.

The time zone change took adjusting for the Cougars but didn’t faze them as they cruised past Texas 16-6 in the first game of the tournament.

“I felt even more confident about the emotional and mental aspect of being at nationals,” coach Dabrowski said.

BYU Women’s Lacrosse finished fourth at the 2019 Nationals in Virginia Beach. (Nikki Dabrowski)

Virginia Tech gave the Cougars a scare as they BYU sneaked by 8-7 to move on. Delaware came out strong in the first half of BYU’s next game, taking a six-goal lead into the half. Though the momentum shifted in BYU’s favor, they would eventually fall 12-9 to Delaware.

Rival Michigan was the final matchup for the Cougars. They lost to them the previous year in the Championship round and again by two in the regular season. The team had high hopes and expectations to accomplish more. The team left everything they had out on the field but the score didn’t turn out how they wanted as the Cougars lost a bitter 11-10 game and ended up taking fourth place. The team had two All-Americans that year.

Now as the fall season ends and 2020 is near, the Cougars are hungry for not only another nationals appearance but to do something they have never done — bring home a National Championship.

BYU huddled up during a home game vs UVU during the Fall season 2019. (Larissa Vecchi)

Baker said that the team has an expectation to go to nationals and that the number of freshmen on the team creates new potential.

“This team is probably more inexperienced than the three previous years, but is so much more coachable,” midfielder Logan Coon said. “I am looking forward to seeing how we can position our potential in order to be the best team we can.”

There is a bright future for the Cougars as they approach the second half of their season and lot to look forward to as nationals sits in the back of players’ minds.

Coon, returning cougar from nationals, counsels the team on how to make it back again this coming year; “We have to take it one game at a time.”

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