Oregon lacrosse graduated nine seniors last season, including six starters. With an incoming class of nine freshman plus a sophomore transfer, the Ducks find themselves in a season of adjustment and transition, compounded by the arrival of new head coach Chelsea Gamble.
Transfer attack Marlee Moon Gaddy, Gamble’s first transfer at Oregon, left Stony Brook because of finances and was added to the Ducks’ roster just last month. She has one main goal for the season: winning a Pac-12 championship. Senior attack Shannon Williams and the rest of the team, especially the four other seniors, share her dream.
“I definitely want to go out with a bang,” said Williams, who was named to the 2018 Second-Team All-Pac-12 and is Oregon’s single-season record-holder in points and points-per-game. “It would be nice to finish the season knowing we left everything out there.”
The Ducks finished last season with a loss to Colorado in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, ending with a 9-9 record. Despite a young roster, Oregon, who is hosting this year’s tournament, is focused on fostering intensity and selflessness.
Gamble, who is the former assistant coach and offensive coordinator at Pac-12 Tournament champion Stanford, brings conference and tournament expertise.
“That’s my goal with this team, to be able to be a perennial contender for the Pac-12 and then get us to the NCAA,” Gamble said. “It’s trying to have that gritty mentality to get to the edge that we get one step closer as a defense or as an offense, so that on game day it feels natural."
Gamble, who knows the Oregon program from her time at Stanford, hopes a consistent practice mentality will sustain her team through season and prevent Oregon’s typical second-half-of-the-season slump, especially with such a young team.
Oregon’s freshmen-heavy roster doesn’t worry Gamble though, rather she sees it as a “fresh start” as the team figures out what kind of program it’s going to be.
“It’s an opportunity for us to not necessarily have any of that leftover tradition or foundation,” Gamble said. “It was a little bit more of let’s create something new and figure out what our strengths are offensively and defensively.”
Oregon returns just five of last season’s starters, including midfield junior Lexy Biller and seniors Madeline Reece and Julia Taylor. On defense, senior Mandi Trostle remains. With the graduation of Jill Zubillaga, Mariah Gatti and Cambi Cukar, Williams is the sole remaining starting attacker.
“Everyone’s stepping up and filling these roles that were passed down from those who graduated,” Williams said. “This is a completely brand-new team. Returners are limited, so I think it’ll honestly show a lot on Feb. 9, our first game. You might have to come back and ask me after that.”
The Ducks will open their season at home against Mercer on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 1 p.m., which is both team’s first game.
Follow Sierra Webster on Twitter @WebsterSierraE.