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Jason Blocker | email@example.com
The second year of the women’s lacrosse program at Radford has not failed to meet expectations this season. After a one-win season during their debut campaign, the Highlanders felt they had much to prove headed into 2017. So far, the win column has substantially improved—the team sits at 5-7 midway through conference play. Winning their first conference game in the program’s history last week against Gardner-Webb, the Highlanders seem to break another milestone every time they step on the field.
There are many aspects of a program to consider when discussing such a turnaround. For this program, no player has put in more dedication than the sophomore attacker Emma Rogers.
The table has been set for Rogers to make the leap this year. After an impressive rookie year with 24 goals, just one behind the leading scorer, it was evident that Rogers was going to be a force to be reckoned with. The success experienced during her freshman season has translated into a 36-goal season just 12 games into her sophomore season, a mark that currently leads all of the Big South. After the team voted for captains before their inaugural season last year, Radford Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach Haley Marvine took it on herself to name Rogers one of two team captains for this season. “Last year, I was kind of the scared freshman coming in,” Rogers admitted to The Tartan. “In a lot of Division I programs, athletes don’t come in as a freshman and get to see the field. It helped a lot with my confidence.”
Confidence wasn’t always a strong suit of Rogers. She admitted that during her high school years, her heart wasn’t where she wanted it to be. “In high school, I didn’t have the best experience coaching-wise,” Rogers remembered. This caused her to fall out of love with the sport, which can make an athlete feel as if they’re just going through the motions. Luckily, a change in atmosphere and coaching revitalized the flame in her heart felt for lacrosse. “When I met coach Marvine and [Radford University Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach Julia] Heaps, I finally felt like I was playing for the right people,” said Rogers. “They’re great coaches and helped me fall in love with the sport again.” When asked to further elaborate on what makes the staff so great, she highlighted coach Marvine especially. “She pushes us to be our best, and never wants to see us fail. When we do, she picks us up and we learn from our mistakes. That’s the reason we play so hard for her, she’s our biggest supporter both in and out of the classroom.”
Rogers notes that the team improvement this season mostly stems from the proverbial chip still placed upon her team’s shoulders. “We still have a lot to prove as a second-year program,” said Rogers. “We understand other teams have had more time to prepare, which only means we must come out every day and work harder than everyone else.”
The grind to catch up with other programs around the nation was not an easy one. It involved an extensive offseason of conditioning and improving their skills every step of the way. “We worked a lot on shooting. I think that built a bunch of confidence as far as us taking more shots and learning how to finish stronger at the net,” said Rogers. The offseason also provided a lot of time for the teammates to bond with one another. “We found our mojo and what works for us.”
The mojo that team captain Rogers mentioned translates to team chemistry. She feels as if a total overhaul in attitude and compassion towards one another has been a key component that shows every time they step on the field. “There’s a sense of family on this team that I don’t think you could find anywhere else,” she said. “Coach recruits a very special group of girls, which has made the building process easier than ever imaginable.”
If you were to ask Emma Rogers who the most valuable player on the team was, the humble athlete would steer the conversation away from her obvious success. “This year, we’ve shown to have a lot of attacking threats on offense. And our defense has been totally different this year, it’s been amazing.”
While the lacrosse team sits at a sub .500 record, that record is still an achievement. Many new programs can take five-to-ten years to make noticeable improvement, and may also never find the right mix of players and coaches. Luckily, the Highlanders future sings a much different tune. With a great group of athletes, a motivational coaching staff, and a desire to prove the nation wrong, there’s no telling where the ceiling is for future seasons.
“We’re really building on something special here,” Rogers concluded.