When Meredith started its lacrosse program four years ago, it was made up of lots of walk-ons and one recruit.
With women’s lacrosse being the fastest growing sport in the U.S., Meredith saw an opportunity. The school hired Lauren Scott from Danbury, Conn., where she had been a high school coach, and assembled a team.
“It was really by all accounts a club team with just a few experienced players,” Scott said.
Three years after its 2013 inaugural season, and Meredith (17-1, 6-0 USA South) has dominated its conference. The Avenging Angels have won three consecutive USA South Athletic Conference championships, and made it to the NCAA tournament in each of the past three seasons.
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Many of their goals as a start-up program have already been achieved, including being noticed throughout the region.
But there’s still one goal they need to reach: to advance past the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament. They have the opportunity to do so Saturday when they face off against Cabrini College (Pa.) (13-5) in Salisbury, Md. in the first round of the tournament.
Meredith lacrosse has found its identity.
Meredith coach Lauren Scott
The lone recruit on that first-year team was Katie Burnet, a transfer from Longwood University, a Division-I school. Now she’s a senior and ready to help her team finally achieve that goal.
Burnet said it didn’t take the team long to realize just how good they are. After the team’s only loss of the season, a 21-11 defeat in early March to Mary Washington, they beat Roanoke 27-17 and Oneonta State 17-13 in Puerto Rico. In April, the Avenging Angels also beat Rhodes, the team they lost to in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA tournament.
“I think we are a much more focused team,” Burnet said. “We know what it takes to win. We actually played a team (Rhodes) that we played in the first round in the NCAA last year and we beat them. We’ve proven we know what it takes and we have what it takes.”
Her coach agrees.
“Meredith lacrosse has found its identity,” Scott said. “I think the first time it’s very scary and took us by surprise. But (now) we’ve been there before. I know that with the leadership with the upperclassmen, the difference is they will want it more.”
Scott said what makes her team great is their unselfishness.
Meredith leads the nation in scoring with just under 19 goals per game. Leading that charge are Burnet and sophomore Carlee Joseph. Burnet has 65 goals and 19 assists on the season.
Joseph, who leads the team in points, is also tied for fifth in the nation with most goals scored (75). She has 21 assists to go along with it. Joseph also won conference player of the year.
“I think it’s really great,” Joseph said of her team’s success. “We just want to play our game and keep our high powered offense up and see if we can win.”
The winner of Saturday’s game, will face Salisbury (16-2), who boasts the fourth best scoring defense in the nation.
But Meredith is taking it one game at a time.
“I always feel confident in the fact that I have a great team,” Scott said. “I know that we have a great group of hard working players and I also know that they are going to have to go out and prove it to tomorrow.”