For the first time in team history, the Minnesota women’s lacrosse club team will compete at the U.S. Lacrosse Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates Championship Tournament next week in Denver, Col.
The 16th-seeded Gophers will face off against top-seeded and six-time defending champion Cal Poly in the first round of the tournament, which spans from May 9 to 12.
“We expect to give (Cal Poly) a run for their money for as long as we possibly can in that game, just to show everybody that Minnesota is on the national scene now,” Minnesota coach Janet Holdsworth said.
Earlier this month, the team swept the Upper Midwest Women’s Lacrosse League tournament to earn an automatic bid to the national competition.
After defeating Bethel 16-3 and St. Olaf 19-4 in the first two rounds of the league tournament, Minnesota faced off against in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth in the championship game.
The Gophers managed to hold off the Bulldogs and extend their winning streak to 17 games with the 11-8 win.
After the tournament, Minnesota got a second surprise when 13 team members were named to the All-Tournament team, an impressive feat considering only 12 players take the field at one time.
So far this season, Minnesota bolsters a 19-1-1 record – going undefeated in league play. The Gophers only loss came in an 8-6 loss to Kansas during the first tournament of the season.
Midfielder Morgan Paldron attributes the team’s success this season to the depth of Minnesota’s roster.
“We’re a really strong team, and what is great about our team is that you can’t just shut down one or two of our players and have a huge impact,” Paldron said. “We have so many talented players and so many scorers on our team.”
And Paldron is one of the Gophers’ top contributors this season, ranking second on the team in points scored with 34 in 19 games.
But Paldron has been contributing to lacrosse programs for two decades – her first collegiate experience came over 20 years ago when she played Division I lacrosse at William & Mary.
Coach Holdsworth also played collegiate lacrosse on the East Coast, where the sport has been popular for years, unlike the Midwest, where lacrosse is a relatively new sport.
But Holdsworth is working to change that, having already helped to establish high school lacrosse in Minnesota when she was a coach at Hopkins High School before moving on to the next level with the Gophers.
She also brought along seven of her players from Hopkins with her, including junior and team captain Jacqueline Munyon, who has played for Holdsworth since she was in 8th grade.
“I came here to pretty much continue to play with her,” Munyon said of her coach. “And I liked the ‘U’ a lot, so it worked out.”
Though the team cannot actively recruit potential players, Holdsworth’s reputation still manages to pull in University students who want to continue playing after high school – the team already has six new players scheduled to join the
team next year, when the team tries to defend its league championship.
But simply bringing the Gophers club to the national tournament isn’t the end of the road for Holdsworth; she hopes to help Minnesota make the jump to the Division I level.
“I think the University realizes that this is a sport that is here to stay. Ö The Big Ten is poised to go (to the Division I level),” Holdsworth said. “My personal goal is to see that happen in the next five years.”