Following last year’s run to the 2022 Southeastern Women’s Lacrosse League (SWLL) playoffs, the Jackets’ women’s lacrosse team is battling it out at the top of the SWLL East division.
Their current record of 4-3 places them at third in the division of seven, right behind Clemson and UGA at 4-2 and 6-2 respectively. In comparison to last year’s record of 6-4, the winning percentage is roughly equal. However, their in-division record has drastically improved. Even when accounting for a division that has increased in size, a progression from 1-2 to 3-2 for the in-division record speaks to a team that has adjusted to the change nicely.
Opening up their season at FSU and UGA, they were blown out in consecutive games, 4-14 and 2-21.
“The UGA game was our toughest … they came into it a lot more physically and mentally prepared,” said sophomore attacker Alex Pounds. “However, if we played them later in the season, I think the results would have been more favorable for us.” It is easy to see why Pounds believes that — getting blown out by a rival could have easily derailed the season. Instead, they went on a four-game winning streak.
In their home game against Tennessee, the Jackets battled with the Vols in a full four-quarter effort. Sophomore attacker/midfielder Iris Golden was superb, notching three solo goals. However, it was truly a team effort that put the Jackets over the top. Five other Jackets also scored goals of their own and freshman goaltender Mirella Kades had 12 saves to keep Tennessee at bay and secure the 8-6 victory. They then drew the University of Alabama at Birmingham in a SWLL West vs. East battle, but the Blazers proved to have no answers for the Tech offense or defense and got crushed 14-1. Freshman attacker Anita Di Bari, who scored in the Tennessee game, kept her scoring streak alive with another two goals while her fellow attacker Pounds scored three of her own. Freshman midfielder/defender Alexa Bowman Olay also added two scores to augment a dominant offensive output from Tech. In total, nine players scored against UAB while the Blazers only got off one shot on goal against Kades and did not fare much better against sophomore Sophia Refeca either.
Winning against Tennessee and UAB in front of a home crowd carried over to their away matchups with Kennesaw State and Emory, where they dominated in similar fashion. The defense was not quite as sharp in the Kennesaw game, letting up seven goals, but the offensive output continued to the tune of midfield duo freshman Ansley Hails and Golden scoring six goals apiece. With two players outscoring the entire opposing team, Tech proved their dominance to extend their winning streak to three.
Emory had no answers either, as they were drubbed 16-3 in essentially a repeat of the UAB game. Hails, Pounds and Golden combined for seven points while nine others added goals of their own. The team has been able to generate offense from multiple sources throughout the year and it has really shown up in their wins.
They then drew a tough divisional matchup against Clemson but still battled to the end. Clemson’s offensive attack is a big reason for their No. 2 ranking in the division and it showed up in this one to the tune of eighteen points. However, Tech was still able to add ten of its own as the duo of Hails and Golden continued to shine with seven points. Unfortunately, the offense did not have the ball enough. In their wins, they were able to rack up around twenty ground balls and control the time of possession. Against Clemson, they only recorded nine. Surprisingly, Clemson actually only had two ground balls, but they converted their shots at a really impressive clip.
Taking a look at the numbers, Golden and Hails are the two leaders in scoring, neck-and-neck at seventeen and sixteen respectively. Freshman midfielder Ifeoluwa Akinsanya has been critical for the Jacket’s time of possession this year, ranking second on the team in ground balls while also adding four goals. She has also racked up sixteen draw controls, helping Tech control the ball after scores and build momentum. Refeca and Kades are also a solid duo in the net, yielding comparable save percentages of around 70%. Kades has definitely seen more shots (19 to Refeca’s three), but the team has either one to rely upon.
To close out their season, the Jackets take on Emory in an April Fools’ matchup. While the Eagles have not won a game all year, they will be eager to steal a win if Tech underestimates them. Since one game is all that separates Clemson from Tech, they cannot afford to falter against a lesser opponent and lose ground in the race for the postseason.
“It’s really heartwarming to see how many friendships blossom beyond the field,” said Pounds. “I think that speaks to the community. Our girls, along with Coach Braun, are so passionate about the game and supporting each other.”
The support and the chemistry they have built throughout the ups and downs of the season should power them forward as they close out their regular season.