2003 Lacrosse Outlook
Vanderbilt's 2002 lacrosse season wasn't created at Central Casting but the
script was right out of Hollywood. The Commodores rebounded from the bitter
memories of 2001 by winning the American Lacrosse Conference championship, made
their first trip to the NCAA Tournament and earned Coach Cathy Swezey a host
of honors in the process.
What to do for an encore?
If you ask Swezey, Vanderbilt's high-energy head coach, there are many new frontiers
just waiting for this team. Perhaps the biggest objective is to further establish
the relatively new Commodore program as one of the true national powers.
"We don't want to be on the edge of the Top 10," Swezey says with
conviction. "We want to compete at a higher level. We want to be serious
contenders for a national championship."
While Swezey is convinced her team has made tremendous progress in the last
year, she knows that any future gains will not come easily.
"Women's lacrosse has become very competitive," says Swezey, the
insidelacrosse.com National Coach of the Year and ALC Coach of the Year last
season. "There are no more easy victories on anyone's schedule. Progress
will come down to hard work - will this team be willing and as disciplined as
last year? Will we have the great leadership that we enjoyed last season?"
Swezey has been putting challenges in front of her team for over a year and
she likes the response she is getting.
The six-year VU coach expects to receive excellent leadership from her senior
class. A very experienced, mature junior class should also play a significant
factor in the season. Swezey says they face the challenge of a raised bar of
"We no longer have the same goals that we once had," Swezey says.
"We must be willing to commit to higher goals, greater expectations. I
know we are willing. The dedication of our team is one of our strong suits."
If the Commodores are to fulfill their dreams again in 2003, it might be a
safe bet to suggest a potent attack will be the catalyst. Another key will be
a more consistent effort from start to finish.
"Last year we had character and a lot of toughness," Swezey recalls
fondly. "But we were inconsistent at times. We usually played 110 percent
during the second half but there were games that I thought we were considerably
less than 100 percent in the first half. This year we need to be more complete."
The Black and Gold lost three valuable seniors, including All-America defensive
star Meghan Lewis. But the rest of the squad returns along with three outstanding
transfers who will make their presence felt quickly. This mature team is cause
The senior class includes defensive cornerstone Tara Schmucker, team captain
and regional All-America last year; Jeannie Crawley, VU's leading scorer as
a junior; three-year defensive starter Erin Flaherty and valuable contributors
Jessica Mundt, Colleen Morris and Rebecca Ferrell.
Michelle Allen is a junior who actually arrived in January of 2002. This gifted
offensive player was frustrated with injuries last spring and she enters this
year "unknown" to most outsiders.
Another newcomer to carefully watch is Lauren Peck, a junior considered to
be an exceptional talent. Her presence in the lineup should give VU instant
Sophomore Kim Gianis is the third transfer and the lone defender. Swezey expects
her to also see plenty of playing time.
There is another "new" factor that figures prominently into Vanderbilt's
rush toward the top. In addition to everything else, the Commodores will be
playing this spring in a sparkling new 2,400 seat stadium that Swezey says is
undoubtedly one of the finest in the nation.
The feedback we are getting from people who visit our campus is that we have
the best set of facilities in the country," she says. "The stadium
is now a crown jewel that goes hand-in-hand with Vanderbilt's excellent academic
reputation, the exciting city of Nashville and our athletic success."
The Commodores know they can no longer sneak up on opponents, as may have been
the case last season. In addition to an improving American Lacrosse Conference,
Vanderbilt has added some new opponents that might toughen up its already difficult
"We will trade one Final Four team - Georgetown, for another Final Four
team - Cornell. We've also added a 2001 NCAA Tournament team in Hofstra,"
Last year's success "cost" the program a fine assistant coach in
Kate Brew, who became head coach at Ohio after the season. However, Swezey said
her candidate pool was rich and deep in replacing Brew.
New on the staff is Megan Riley, who joins Susan Pley to give Vanderbilt a
strong trio of coaches and leaders. Riley arrived from Johns Hopkins and is
known for her skill in working with goal keepers and offensive strategies. Pley
played at Trenton State and is in her fourth year, working mostly with the defense.