Season Opens With Long Road Trip
In the 50 weeks since Oregon lacrosse last took the field, on March 8, 2020, the Ducks have learned a lot about themselves as people.
About the character it takes to persevere through a pandemic. About the will to stay focused in the classroom and on the practice field despite an uncertain future.
In the next four weeks before the Ducks return to action at Papé Field, they'll learn a lot about themselves as a team. About the veterans' ability to pick up where they left off, from a remarkable win over Fresno State before last season was cut short. And about the ability of some talented freshmen to help Oregon achieve its goal of a postseason appearance.
The women of UO lacrosse open their 2021 season Friday, with a game at San Diego State. That kicks off a season-opening six-game road schedule for the Ducks, before they play their home opener on March 20.
For UO coach Chelsea Hoffman, there's much to learn between now and then.
"It's just going to be week to week, learning who we are," Hoffman said. "And then coming back to Eugene and refocusing."
For the veterans, the hope is to recapture the magic of their 2020 finale. Two days after the Ducks suffered their fifth straight loss last spring, Hoffman installed a completely new offense that generated 20 goals in a win over Fresno State. Hanna Hilfcoff scored seven times, and Shonly Wallace had five goals. Jamie Level had a hat trick, and Lillian Stump scored twice.
Within days, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the season to a halt.
"We felt like we really came together as a team," Stump said. "Things were starting to click. Everything seemed to be working. So it was definitely one of those heartbreaking moments."
The good news is, all those prolific scorers went into the offseason with confidence. The defensive group got a boost from the addition this offseason of graduate transfer Olivia Mannon. And Hoffman says to look out for the impact of the freshman class in the midfield, from the likes of Morgan McCarthy and Nakeeya McCardell.
"We have enough depth," Hoffman said, "we can see who rises to the top."
Pandemic protocols made for a very unusual structure to practice last fall. The Ducks couldn't make contact, and so focused intently on fine-tuning technical aspects of their play.
Since returning from winter break, practices have been full-throttle. There's been joy at finally being back on the field together, playing the game they love. There's been anticipation, as Friday's season opener drew closer. And there's been hope, about where this season could take the Ducks.
"I know where we can get," Hoffman said. "But I don't want to put too many expectations on them, so that we have that fear of failure. I want them to be confident."
Stump and the other veterans say they are ready to provide exactly that.
"One thing us as upperclassmen want to kind of bring to the season is just the confidence," Stump said. "We know we're a really good team and we can do really well. The Pac-12 is a great league, and we have great competition. But I think we can get to the tournament if we keep playing together."