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“Team One” is underway at AU

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“Team One” is underway at AU

AU women's lacrosse players endure the weather during their first official practice in January.

AU women's lacrosse players endure the weather during their first official practice in January.

AU ATHLETICS

AU women's lacrosse players endure the weather during their first official practice in January.

AU ATHLETICS

AU ATHLETICS

AU women's lacrosse players endure the weather during their first official practice in January.

Cass Toliver

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On Sep. 11, 2017 Ashland University’s athletic department declared that women’s lacrosse will be added as a varsity intercollegiate sport for the 2018-2019 school year.

With that in place, an inaugural season is now underway for the AU women’s lacrosse team, also known as Team One.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to play here on Team One at Ashland University and am very thankful to the athletic department along with Coach Williamson and Coach Smith for making this experience possible,” junior midfielder Sofia Michael said.

With a newly formed team consisting of 17 girls, only 10 of them have had previous experience before joining the recent team at AU.

“As a team, we have a lot of potential and I am excited to see how the season goes,” junior midfielder Renee Ruppert said.

Michael and Ruppert both bring a tremendous amount of experience to the field. They both started at a very young age with Michael playing since she was five years-old and Ruppert since she was seven.

Michael and Ruppert are both transfers from Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland where they led their team to two NJCAA National Tournament semifinal appearances.

In two seasons in junior college, Michael scored 107 goals and added 54 assists. Her freshman campaign in which she had 51 goals, Michael had a 96 shooting percentage, meaning she missed only two shots on goal.

Another person who contributes a lot of lacrosse experience is head coach Shaun Williamson. Williamson played lacrosse himself in high school and college where he attended Lees-McRae and was a three-year starting attackman and letterwinner.

AU ATHLETICS
An AU women’s lacrosse player tosses the ball around in the first practice.

“Those two players for instance are both juniors in college and All-Americans. Sofia was actually the National Female Athlete of the year for junior college last year,” Williamson said. “We have a mixture of obviously new kids, but we have some talented kids, too. We have a good mixture.”

However, this is not the first season that Williamson has started a women’s lacrosse program from the ground-up. Ashland is his fourth stop in his 15 year head coaching career where each school he has coached has been a program-building project.

With that type of experience, Williamson is familiar with how first years of a program work and said that they are enjoyable to start.

“I like that the women’s lacrosse team here has created a positive environment where all of it’s athletes are dedicated and want to improve,” Michael said. “Being from Maryland, I’m thankful that this team has created a welcoming environment for both Renee and I.”

Along with many other athletic teams at AU, the women’s lacrosse team is playing a role in life lessons.

“Being on this team has taught me a lot about myself,” Michael said. “I’ve realized I like helping others learn and understand this sport which I’ve come to love over my many years of playing.”

With seven women having no prior experience in lacrosse, the experienced athletes have had to help throughout fall practice to teach the game to some of their teammates.

The Eagles still have a lot to learn but are looking forward to the challenge ahead of them as the spring season is right around the corner.

“I think it’s going to be a year where we’ll win some games, we’ll lose some games,” Williamson said. “It’s going to be kind of an up and down year, but if we can finish somewhere around .500 I think that’s great.”

With Williamson being in this position with a newly formed program for the fourth time now, he realizes that the first season will not be all about wins and losses.

Williamson is worried about developing his team and then forming a recruiting base as the years evolve so that he can build a successful women’s lacrosse program from the ground up.

“I’m not really concerned about our record over all. I’m more concerned about how we develop and if we can continue to develop and do what we are doing right now, then it will be a successful year,” Williamson said.

The women will begin their season at home on Feb. 23 as they host Notre Dame College at Ferguson Field 1 p.m. The team will then embark on a four game road trip in March that will consist of games in Georgia (Shorter University), North Carolina (Mars Hill University), Illinois (McKendree University) and Missouri (Maryville University).

This first season of women’s lacrosse at AU will be an exciting mark of history for women’s athletics where a combination of experienced and inexperienced athletes will come together to kick off this inaugural season.

“I think this season is very important in defining the future of women’s lacrosse here at Ashland University. As we move forward with our spring season, I’m excited to witness the progress we have made since the fall as we play the teams in our conference,” Michael said. “This season has a lot of potential, and I’m glad that there is such a great group of girls that I am able to experience it with.”

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