Stetson Lacrosse Inaugural Season Opens This Weekend

DELAND, Fla. As one of the oldest team games played in America, it is only appropriate that inaugural Stetson University women's lacrosse team will play its first match against a team of players representing some of the original founders of the sport.

The first year Hatters program will play against the Haudenosaunee National Team, which represents the united Iroquois tribes of upstate New York, on Saturday evening as a part of the Champion Challenge at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista. Stetson will play on Field 16 at 7:00 p.m.

Other teams in the event include the U.S. National team, the English National team, Rollins College and national powers Northwestern and Syracuse, who met for the Division I national championship last spring. The Team USA men's national team will also compete in the event along with men's teams from Notre Dame, Jacksonville and Loyola.

Stetson coach Nicole Moore, who has been in Florida for a just a year, building the Hatters program from scratch, said the women's game is very different from what the men play.

"Substitutions are like hockey, on the fly," Moore said. "One thing about our sport that is different from others is that, on the whistle the players have to stop. Lacrosse is a very fast game and, when played correctly, it is a beautiful game. It is a game of finesse."

While the sport has been played in this country since at least the early 1700s, it is still in its infancy in Florida. In addition to Stetson, varsity women's lacrosse is played at Jacksonville, the University of Florida, Florida Southern, Rollins College, Saint Leo and the University of Tampa.

In 2012 there were 90 schools playing Division I women's lacrosse, and that number will continue to grow in the coming years.

Stetson will be joined by another first-year program, Mercer, along with Jacksonville, Kennesaw State and Howard in the first season for the Atlantic Sun Conference to offer a women's lacrosse championship.

Like any first-year program, Moore has more questions than answers when it comes to her young team. She saw much in the fall to like about the squad, but there are many unknowns.

"The thing I like is definitely our heart and our hustle," Moore said. "I think we really grew in the fall. There are still a lot of things we need to work on, specifically with our Lax IQ about all of the facets of the game and our skills. The thing that really stood out was the heart and desire, which was evident in all of the hard work they put in. We really started to see the team come together in the fall."

Moore said the challenge during this first season will be to keep the players focused on the small goals and improving from game-to-game. Results on the scoreboard will be secondary to making strides in getting the program off to the right start.

"We do have a couple of transfers, but the challenge of coming in and playing your first collegiate game is like no other," Moore said. "It will be up to us, as a coaching staff, to have the teams focused on individual goals for each game. We do have a smaller roster, which will affect how we play in games and how we prepare for games.

"What I expect, and what I hope that fans will see, is a group of young women who are working toward their goals together as a team. I also hope they see the heart of this team, no matter what is on the scoreboard. In our program, our kids will play by the rules. We will not be a 'win at all cost' program. They will respect the rules and their opponents. Any shady play will not be a part of this program."

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