Panthers focus on bright future
In the wake of Friday’s blowout 18-7 loss to Loyola of Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, High Point University women’s lacrosse coach Lyndsey Boswell emphasized the importance of the Panthers just getting there in the program’s third season.
“We were happy to be here today,” Boswell said. “It was a step in the right direction for our program. It wasn’t the outcome we were looking for but we learned a lot about ourselves and the team this year. Moving forward this is really going to get us started from the NCAA standpoint.”
HPU got its NCAA Tournament start by beating Davidson for the first Big South tournament championship.
It was a start in which the Panthers found they have work to do to be competitive with the better teams in NCAA Division I. HPU went 10-9 overall but finished 6-1 as one of the two best teams in the Big South and just 4-8 out of the league as it faced a slate of quality teams.
Some of the tougher nonleague matchups included lopsided losses to North Carolina, Florida, Navy, Denver and Loyola.
The Greyhounds, who came into the game with a 10-8 record that included a 5-6 mark against ranked opponents, repeatedly sprinted and cut through the HPU defense and scored almost at will in building a 6-0 lead. They were bigger and more physical. They had won the Big East championship and advanced to the NCAA round of eight the past two seasons. They were a preseason top-10 pick and had beaten four teams that reached the tournament.
The Panthers had a squad with just three seniors – the program’s all-time leading scorer Grace Gaeng, goalie Ana Wallingford and defender Courtney McLaughlin, who was sidelined by a knee injury.
With the departure of Gaeng to graduation, the Panthers will return five of their six double-figure goal scorers – led by Alec Perry, who tallied in every game and finished with 40 goals. They also return the heart of a defense led by Big South defensive player of the year Jasmine Jordan.
“T here’s a lot to be said about being in the NCAA’s for the first time,” Boswell said. “I didn’t believe everyone when they said it was going to be different. The girls getting on the field with a top team that’s done this before, it was a positive experience in itself.”