Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Four years ago, lacrosse kicked off its inaugural season with a roster of 22 freshmen and one senior. The team only won three games in 2016, but the same group of freshmen were instrumental in the program’s legacy.
That recruiting class left Richmond after last season, but their mark on the program established a culture and an identity.
“I don’t think four years ago we really recognized or knew what VCU lacrosse was,” coach Jen O’Brien said. “I’d say [now] we have a clear identity: We’re blue-collar, we play fast, we play hard. … That’s ingrained in us.”
The Rams lost their top two leading scorers from last season, Sky Hyatt and Molly Barcikowski, who combined for 98 goals.
With 15 seniors graduating last year, O’Brien and her coaching staff had to look ahead to this season to build a roster that could compete in the Atlantic 10. The process started three years ago, when they recruited the team’s last two freshmen classes.
Those freshmen classes built the foundation for this year’s team, as they are now sophomores and juniors. Even though they might not have played a lot last year, they saw how the team operates and what the coaching staff expects. O’Brien said the coaching staff will be patient with the sophomore class this year because they lack collegiate game experience.
“They went through things, they know what we want. But game experience, you can’t replicate that,” O’Brien said. “I think we’re going to have to be pretty patient with them, working through some nerves on the field.”
The Rams welcomed 11 newcomers this season, including nine freshmen. O’Brien said she expects freshmen midfielders Lauren Marosi and Emma Barber to contribute right away on the field.
Marosi, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, logged a school record of nine goals in a single high school game at Catholic Central. Barber led Franklin County High School in goals and assists in all four years of her career.
This season, the Rams have their sights set on making the A-10 tournament at Cary Street Field as a top-four seed, an improvement from years past. They also want to play consistently throughout the season.
“In our four years, we’ve had some good wins, but we’ve had some pretty bad losses against teams we shouldn’t have lost to,” O’Brien said.
The program’s signature win came in 2018 when the Rams snapped Massachusetts’ 61-game win streak. O’Brien said the team’s goal this year is to win against the four teams on the schedule they haven’t beaten: UMBC, Richmond, Saint Joseph’s and La Salle.
The first opportunity for the Rams to check one of those boxes comes early in the season, as the black and gold will travel to Baltimore to play UMBC in the second game of the year.
“I think that would be a very big win for our program,” O’Brien said of playing her alma mater. “A Baltimore school that attracts a lot of top talent and competes really well in their conference, that would be big for us.”
The Rams kick off the season on the road at ODU on Feb. 12 at 3 p.m.