May 8, 2021
The Oswego State women’s lacrosse team concluded their season on April 25. The Lakers were in a rebuild this season during the COVID-19 pandemic. This young squad looked away from COVID-19 and set their eyes on the future, a future much brighter.
The Lakers finished their COVID-19 campaign with a 4-5 record.
Last season, in 2020, the Lakers were deep with 11 seniors leading the way. Senior captains Molly Beck and Montana Garrett headlined Oswego State going into the season.
Then the shutdown occurred.
On March 12, 2020, Oswego State sports were cancelled due to the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus.
The Lakers finished the season with a 2-2 record. With a senior-laden team, Oswego State felt poised to make a State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Championship run.
“It was a shock to a lot of people and it was disappointing that our season got taken away’” said head coach Britt Howard. “Some of the returners got to learn from the past season.”
This season the Lakers only returned four players. Senior attacker Kamryn Sherman, junior defender Erin Lehmann, sophomore attacker Kiara McKercher, and sophomore midfielder Sela Wiley.
The team was at a disbelief that they were going to be sent home with a dozen games left on the schedule.
“It was sad, because we did lose 11 seniors,” said Lehmann. “At the time I was a sophomore, so not being able to play those last 12 games was sad because we did have such great chemistry on and off the field. The next day was like ‘alright pack up everyone has to go home.”
Flash forward to February 23, 2021, eleven months after the cancellation of SUNYAC sports, the Chancellor Jim Malatras announced SUNYAC would resume spring sports. Oswego State President Debroah F. Stanley agreed as well, for the approval of Lakers sports to begin.
“Everyone was super excited finding out other conferences were going to play. When we heard the meeting was being called, we were just waiting for them to make it official,” Wiley said. “It was just a matter of time to see when we could get back together and play together on the field.”
The team got their chance to return, but the offseason was like no other.
“It was really tough to prepare mentally. The biggest struggle was our team chemistry,” Howard said. “Usually the team is always together whether it’s at the dining halls, at a house, or just doing an event with the team. It impacted our team significantly.”
Oswego State looked to be heading in the right direction and another obstacle was presented. On February 24, the Lakers started their season. On March 10, a 10-day COVID-19 pause sent the team into quarantine. This shifted their schedule around into playing almost every other day.
“I really conditioned the team the first couple of weeks of the season and then the 10-day pause took it away from us,” said Howard.
As for COVID-19 testing, the Lakers have a process they go through before game days. For home games the team gets tested once a week. As for away games, the team gets tested three days prior to their departure.
One of the biggest challenges for the team to grow together was the bus rides.
“This year it’s completely different,” said McCkercher. “We’re sitting one person in a seat with our masks on, no eating, and no drinking. We can’t really interact with each other on the bus.”
SUNYAC Chancellor Jim Malatras outlined this plan back in February. For teams hitting the road, bus capacity was reduced by 50%. No handshakes, group celebrations, or interactions with the opposing team were allowed. One of the biggest disappointments for Oswego State players was the no spectators allowed due to New York State Department of Health guidance.
“It’s a disadvantage because when you’re playing you know your parents and my family are out there in the stands. I want to make my coach proud, my team proud, and my parents proud,” said McCkercher. “All of our parents are watching at home and a lot of our friends are watching from home. It’s hard, but we’re following COVID-19 rules and restrictions to make sure everyone is safe.”
Oswego State did everything they could this season with all the restrictions set in place. This season was a growing year for Howard’s team.
Team chemistry and the building process is the biggest picture in Howard’s mind. The Lakers added 14 new additions to the roster this season, with nine of them being freshmen. Many of them didn’t have a senior season in high school.
“I told them it’s going to be a process because when you look back at it, all those freshman this year basically are juniors in high school on the field. As long as we buy into the system and make sure we’re putting in the work, we’re going to be good by their junior and senior years,” said Howard. “They need to believe in that.”
Two freshmen stepped up to the challenge in particular on offense. Midfielder Shae McConnell had 23 points (19 goals and 4 assists) on the season, making her third in total points. Attacker Isabella Lembo added 20 points (15 goals and 5 assists), making her fourth in total points.
Alongside McConnell and Lembo were defender Julia Quirk, attacker/midfielder Erin Cody, and defender Maria Buscaglia who all played in every game and started.
“We’re super young and I’m excited about the young team that we have. I think that we’re talented,” said Howard. “As long as the girls are willing to work, we will be successful. I look towards the four returners this season to implement our system and what’s expected of the sophomores and freshmen. The biggest thing is making sure everyone is on the same page and following the system and making sure everyone knows what’s right from wrong.”
The Lakers are going to graduate two seniors, attacker Kamryn Sherman and attacker/midfielder Lynsey Roth. This leaves Oswego State with 16 returners for next season.
An inexperienced Oswego State team took the field this spring. By the end of the season, this team grew together. Now the Lakers look to build off this season and look forward to winning coach Howard’s first SUNYAC Championship at Oswego State.