The captains of Montclair State University’s Women’s Lacrosse team know the Spring 2014 season will be the toughest in the program’s history. The Red Hawks finished the 2013 season with 15-5 record and won the Skyline Conference Championship. The team is returning 18 veterans from last year’s Championship team.
“This year, since we’re not in the Skyline we’re going to be playing a lot more better teams,” said senior captain Kelly Schoneveld, “so we’re trying to prepare more and more. Since 2006, MSU’s women’s lacrosse team has competed in the Skyline Conference, which is loaded mostly with teams from the tri-state area. The teams in the Skyline include Farmingdale State, Saint Joseph’s-Long Island, Mount Saint Mary, Mount Saint Vincent, Kean, Ramapo, Sage, Maritime, Old Westbury and Purchase. Montclair State joined the New Jersey Athletic Conference in 2009 but the women’s lacrosse team remained in the Skyline in order to compete for an automatic qualifying bid into the NCAA tournament.
“It takes seven schools to sponsor the sport for it to be considered an automatic qualifier for the NCAA,” said MSU athletic director Holly Gera. “In the past, we’ve not had seven women’s lacrosse teams; we’ve only had six.”
Gera said now that Richard Stockton added women’s lacrosse to its program, the NJAC has the required seven teams needed to be considered for an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament.
Although they have faced tough teams like Rowan and The College of New Jersey in the past, MSU players believe the NJAC is going to be much tougher than the Skyline. Montclair State has won the Skyline Conference 7 times since joining the conference. The players all say the regular season games will mean much more this season because winning the conference is the best way to secure the ever-important automatic qualifier into the NCAA.
“Now being in NJAC, we’re going to have to be playing Top 10 teams, not just twice a season but every game is going to be tough,” said senior captain Krissa Henderson. “We have to work hard. We’ve been doing captain’s practices. We’ve been doing heavier weights, taking it more seriously, doing team lifts, captain’s practices. We’ve definitely stressed it a lot more to get in shape for the season because its going to be tough.”
All three captains echoed one another when asked what message they had for their teammates as they prepare to begin their first campaign as a full-time member of the NJAC Conference.
Tierney Conlon mentioned consistency as the most important trait the Red Hawks will have to develop. She said the team will have to take every game seriously.
“Last year, there were some games we knew we were going to win,” said the junior captain who was the 2013 NJAC Co-Attack Player of the Year and Skyline Conference Player of the Year. “This year, everyone needs to be on the same page with that every game is going to be a challenge.”
Conlon added confidence will also help the Red Hawks as they move into the NJAC. She pointed to TCNJ as one team already on MSU’s radar. Conlon, who set school records with 79 assists and 133 points last season, maintains the move to another conference is exciting and she has high expectations for this season’s squad.
“I’m really excited to see how far we get,” she said. “We have a really strong team this year. And it just seems like, compared to previous years, we’re a lot more prepared. And I think everyone wants it really badly so that’s really exciting to see and I think it’s going to take us a long way.”