Developing a competitive spirit was the goal as the Albion College women's lacrosse team gathered this fall for its non-traditional practices and one play day.
While Coach Shanta Loecker continues to grow the program in terms of roster size, Kit Maher, a first-year player to the program who hails from Grosse Pointe, said the competitiveness of the women in the program is a healthy blend of intensity tempered with the ability to grow together as a team.
"The phrase 'we're a growing program' gets thrown around a lot. Though this is true, I don't want people to assume the team we have now isn't capable of doing great things," Maher said. "Our team has been working extremely hard and I can guarantee when spring rolls around, we'll be ready to compete.
"From what I've heard from the upperclassmen, the program has undergone a transformation and that is exciting to hear," she added. "I've seen a lot of improvement. Even myself, I have improved my stick skills with both hands and learning defensive skills. I had the basic skills from playing four years in high school, and now we're fine tuning."
The Britons' competitive edge was developed through anything from timed sprints to a weekly stick challenge and a week-long lacrosse Olympics. Despite the focus on competition, Maher maintains the family atmosphere in the Albion program is as strong as ever.
"Creating team chemistry was one of the fall goals and we achieved that on so many levels," she continued. "The most attractive aspect of the Albion women's lacrosse program is we are such a unit – united as a team and created a strong sense of belonging. Everyone has become a family and I feel like a part of this family now. I wasn't connected as much with my teammates in high school as I am in college. The motto is 'We've got your back' and these girls really do and I've only know them for two or three months. If anyone on the team needs anything from me I would be there. I enjoy being with my teammates. It's not like I have to be with them. I choose to be with them."
Albion put that competitive spirit to the test when it challenged Division II Grand Valley State University among two other teams in the play day. The Britons went 1-1-1 on the day against opponents ranging from NAIA and the WCLA.
"The way we interacted with one another was more important than the record," Maher said. "We didn't have any players to substitute that day and everyone gave 100 percent of their effort. Even though the record was 1-1-1 we came out on top because of our attitude. I'm proud of the way we played and I was happy with how we played.
"It was good to get a first college playing experience against Grand Valley and Lawrence Tech," Maher said. "It was a big wakeup call. Playing against Grand Valley's varsity team was a rude awakening. If we want to win we'll have to work really hard because there are more experienced players."
The non-traditional season officially ended Oct. 18, but the Britons are still working while looking forward to the March 8 season opening contest. Weight lifting, stick work and study sessions are all things the players are doing on their own until practice officially begins early in the spring semester.