Georgetown women learn self-belief on the job

Lacrosse semifinalist didn't like chances early

May 17, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

When Georgetown's women's lacrosse team convened last fall, four months after falling to Maryland, 14-13, in sudden-death overtime in the national championship game, nobody talked about going back to the final four in 2002.

"I think everyone was kind of scared to talk about it," said senior defender Kristin Raneri, a Roland Park graduate.

"Then, at a meeting very early in preseason or late in the fall, one of our assistant coaches said, `You know, it's OK. You can talk about the final four. You can talk about a national championship.' From that point on, we put ourselves on a mission."

The mission continues today when the top-seeded Hoyas (16-1) take on upstart Cornell in the NCAA Division I semifinals at 5:30 p.m. at Loyola's Curley Field.

At the beginning of the season, the Hoyas weren't the only ones thinking a national championship might be out of reach this time.

They came so close last season with their best team ever. Could they challenge again after graduating six starters, including three national players of the year at their positions -- all-time leading scorer Sheehan Stanwick at attack, Caitlin McLean on defense and Bowen Holden in the goal?

Winning their first eight games erased those doubts, especially when Princeton, Duke and seven-time defending national champion Maryland were among the foes to fall.

"Now, we're thinking maybe we were wrong about last year. Maybe this is our year," said goalie Chandler Vicchio, the Mount de Sales graduate who made 12 saves in the 11-4 quarterfinal win over Duke.

Erin Elbe, a first-team All-America attacker last season and a finalist for the 2002 Tewaaraton Trophy, awarded to the nation's top women's player, leads a balanced attack with 56 goals and 22 assists. Notre Dame Prep graduate Wick Stanwick has 44 goals and 20 assists, and Elizabeth Ryan of Roland Park is the assist leader with 26, as well as 17 goals.

"Last year, everybody kind of looked to Sheehan," Elbe said. "This year, so many different people have stepped up. Every game, almost every single one of us score, and it's tough for other teams to get around that."

The Hoyas' only loss came by one goal -- 11-10 to North Carolina on April 7.

Among the team's most valuable assets this season may be a lesson learned from last year's final four at Johns Hopkins.

"We learned not to get down 8-1, because you probably can't win that way," Raneri said with a laugh.

Last May, the Hoyas succumbed to the final four pressure, falling behind by four goals to Loyola in the semifinal and by seven goals to Maryland. They were down 8-1 to the Terrapins in the first 18 minutes, eventually rallying to tie at 12 and force overtime.

"You can't underestimate the pressure and the stress that comes along with being in the final four," said Hoyas coach Kim Simons. "We had a really experienced team and we, as a coaching staff, underestimated that. When they stepped out on the field, they were deer in the headlights."

For Vicchio, who felt immense pressure when she stepped into Holden's spot, there's a simple but challenging way to handle the strain.

"For me, just going out to have fun works pretty well," said the senior. "I feel like I get into trouble when I think too much. We've come this far. We've done everything we have to do. Now, we just have to let it happen."

At a glance

What:NCAA Division I women's lacrosse final four

When:Today and Sunday

Where:Curley Field, Loyola College

Today's semifinals:Cornell vs. Georgetown, 5:30 p.m.; Princeton vs. North Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday's final:Semifinal winners, 1 p.m.

Tickets:$10 single-day adult ticket, $8 single-day youth ticket (12 and under)

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