As UMBC head women's lacrosse coach Amy Slade enters her sixth year at the helm of the program, she has seen growth in not only the players she coaches, but also in herself.
"I think I've definitely gained a lot more patience and I'm more understanding of the process. I kind of grew up in the cornerstone of instant gratification and working towards your goals," Slade said. "I think I've been able to mature by understanding the process and understanding that things don't happen overnight and that success is something that comes and goes in waves, and that if you want it to continue to come in more waves, you have to trust and create the process and follow whatever that is."
Slade, who took over as co-head coach in the 2013 season, has developed a slew of Division I athletes but feels that the incoming student-athletes have a different understanding of what it means to compete at the next level.
"I really, truly feel that there was a five-to-six year span where kids fell into a trap where they're in an 'entitled' stage and I think that this is the group where it started to turn, where kids are starting to understand and coaches all over the country have started to tell them 'you have to work for what you want,' Slade said. "So I think that's a little different about this group – not to say that the (previous) groups that have been in the entitlement stage, those kids have actually figured out how to work for it. This group as a whole is understanding the process of being a Division I athlete."
In 2017, the Retrievers reset the record books, with most goals scored (248), most assists (129), and total points (378), and made their third-straight trip to the America East tournament for the first time since the 2010-12 season. But, Slade said that rewriting the books isn't the main focus for her team.
"We never talk about it. I don't talk about wins and losses, I don't talk about scoring lots of goals, having lots of assists, or making lots of stops," Slade said. "We focus on what the task is that day and I think that's why we've been really successful is that we always know in the back of our brains what the ultimate goal is."
By keeping her team's focus on the task at hand and not the numbers, Slade sees the opportunity to go out onto the field and fight as hard as they can.
"In athletics, you want to win, but we never talk about how scary it would be to lose or that feeling of losing - we always go out there prepared and ready to battle," Slade said. "You're going to battle and maybe lose the game, or you might not battle as hard in the past and still win the game. We just try to go out there and put forth the best effort that UMBC women's lacrosse can."
This season, Slade is relying on two junior captains in midfielder Brittany Levine and defender Jenna Baverman, alongside the senior midfielder Caitlin Miller, who returns for her second tour as captain. But, Slade believes that the strong class of juniors that comes into this season will help boost the team morale.
"Our junior class has really heavy leadership, which has been really super helpful and it shows because we have two junior captains. It's a good problem to have, to have too much leadership in the younger age," Slade said. "They're not only good leaders, but they're also good followers; they know when to turn off their leader brain and follow, because a good leader knows how to do both. I think that's going to be helpful, coupled with the fact that everyone is in it for the same reasons."
The 2018 team - selected to finish third in the America East Preseason Poll - returns 18 letterwinners and nine starters from a season ago. The leadership of the large junior class helps to play a part in helping the team to its overarching goal.
"They all have same motivation, they all have the same goal. In the past, I think they've all had the same goal, but their vision might not have been as clear as it now," Slade said.
Breaking Down The Squad
At the attack position, the team returns two key players from last year's team, while losing an instrumental component to their scoring offense.
"We return Sara Moeller and Lauren McDonald, who put up great numbers and have great chemistry together," Slade said. "We lose Sam Nolan, who had five years here where she went through ups and downs, learned and contributed a lot, not just on the field but in the lacrosse life. The loss of Sam is tough, but we have a group of kids that are willing to do what it takes to get to that level."
Moeller (38 goals, 35 assists), McDonald (62g, 6a), and Nolan (46g, 32a) led the team in scoring last year and each earned America East All-Conference honors at the end of the year. The Retrievers also return junior Payton Van Kirk (23g, 6a), and seniors Taylor Oliver (1g) and Kalyn Crocetti (1a) to the attack position.
At the midfield position, the Retriever mentor notices tremendous growth in the returning players.
"We didn't lose much here, we got stronger by adding a couple of more middies," Slade said. "The midfielders in the freshman class from last year that got a decent amount of minutes are in a really good spot now and have a lot of game confidence."
Miller, who controlled 54 draws last season while scoring nine goals, and Levine, who scored 11 goals a season ago, both return to their midfield positions. Senior Carolyn Jamison, who controlled 38 draws and scored 61 points off 39 goals and 22 assists also returns to the lineup for UMBC.
Junior Catherine Sims and sophomore Zoë Pekins also help to strengthen the midfield lines after seeing quality time in the field last season. Sophomores Skylar Grady and Taylor Johnson, who were limited in their action last season, along with freshmen Rachel Walchuck (Myersville, Md./Middletown) and Julia Hatmaker (Woodbine, Md./Century) will look to take to the field for the Retrievers.
Defensively, Slade pinpoints the loss of senior Caroline Haggerty as a loss for the team, both on and off the field.
"We lost Caroline, who was a middie-defender, but we'll miss her presence as a person and her presence as a player," Slade said. "She really grew in her last four or five games of the season and her leadership really started to shine. She really found her niche and she started she excel in that."
Returning to the defensive side is Baverman, along with America East All-Conference First-Team Selection Kayla Renehan, who led the team in caused turnovers a season ago with 21. Senior Sarah Turco and junior Kia Reinhardt also come back to the team after helping the Retrievers limit their opponents to 10 goals or less in 10 of its 17 games.
Four freshmen – Cassie Evans (Woodstock, Md./Marriots Ridge), Juliet King (Highland, Md./Reservoir), Jessica Loveless (Ijamsville, Md./Oakdale), and Caroline Millenburg (Severna Park, Md./Severna Park) and junior transfer student Grayson Corbett (Ellicott City, Md./Wilde Lake/Hofstra) round out the defense.
The goalkeeper position is a wide-open battle this season after the loss of senior Ashley Peacock, who started the majority of the games in her two seasons at UMBC. But, two experienced goalies in junior Carly Tolino and senior Kelsey Major will be in the race for the starting position come opening day.
"The good news is, Carly and Kelsey have a decent amount of experience. That's going to be a rat race everyday – the two of them know that they have to be consistent," Slade said. "They know that whoever can be consistent is the player who will be in the net. But no decisions have been made there."
Overall, Slade is ready for the season to begin so that the team can add to the list of growing accomplishments that the athletic department has been seeing in the recent years.
"I'm really excited about the progress that UMBC athletics is making, and even bigger, the progress that UMBC women's lacrosse in contributing to that overall success," Slade said. "We really want to measure our overall wins in the type of person we put out there, but also the type of player we put out there, so just a well-rounded student-athlete. I think we're heading in the right direction."
The Retrievers will open their season on Saturday, February 17 as they host LIU Brooklyn at UMBC Stadium at 12 p.m. The team will open its America East slate on Saturday, March 24 when they host New Hampshire at 11 a.m. The America East Championships will take place May 4 & 6, with the highest seed scheduled to host the event.