Westminster Proves It Belongs in WCLA's Top Flight
by J. Jude Hazard | LaxMagazine.com
Westminster's Chelsea Farrell is averaging six points per fame for the 14th-ranked Griffins, who host No. 5 BYU on Wednesday and No. 1 Colorado State on Friday.
Chelsea Farrell and the Westminster women's lacrosse team are about to find out just how far they've come.
Westminster (7-1, 1-0 RMWLL) moved up to US Lacrosse Women's Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA) Division I this year after playing the first four years of the program's existence at the Division II club level.
The 14th-ranked Griffins will host fifth-ranked Brigham Young on Wednesday and undefeated No. 1 Colorado State on Friday in two key Rocky Mountain Women's Lacrosse League showdowns. Westminster has never beaten cross-state rival BYU.
"We have to come out with some confidence," Farrell said. "In the past we've been fearful playing teams like BYU because we've seen them do so well."
Farrell was the 2012 Lacrosse Magazine WCLA Division II Preseason Player of the year. The senior attacker has continued to put up impressive numbers in WCLA Division I play this year. In stats calculated through the Griffins' first seven games, Farrell led the team with 42 points (27 goals, 15 assists).
Westminster posted an impressive win March 17 against No. 16 Colorado. Its only loss at the club level this season was on Feb. 15 to No. 10 Minnesota in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Griffins narrowly lost to NCAA Division II Colorado Mesa on March 2.
"We knew going into the end of last year that we'd be moving up to Division I, so we've been working hard. We have a small roster but all the girls have been taking the challenge," Westminster coach Niki Harding said. "Their passing is better, they make smart decision and they know that they can play against these teams."
The team has focused on not wasting shot opportunities and playing a sharper game this season, according to Harding and Farrell.
"It's not just about balls in the back of the net. It's really about possession, draw control, ground balls and those things in Division II that didn't seem to be as big of an influence," Farrell said. "Now that we've seen how critical all of those things can be, in practice, things have changed. We're spreading it out a lot further, keeping the ball really hot, keeping movement going."
In preparation for BYU and Colorado State, Harding is focusing on making sure her players aren't caught flat-footed off the draw and are able to slow down opponents' fast-break transition offense. Westminster will focus on bypassing the first shot opportunity and instead making a few extra passes and taking smarter shots, Harding said.
"It all comes down to composure for us," senior attacker Kaicee Beal said. "Player to player, we have just as good girls as BYU and CSU, but in the past we have come out and we've been really frantic. We've been nervous and we've thrown the ball away and made bad decisions."
Beal twice tore her right ACL, in the beginning of her sophomore and junior years. She said she's pleased to be back on the field contributing, albeit in more of a setup role due to her injuries. The BYU game will be exactly one year after her second ACL surgery. Beal said she still isn't 100 percent physically. She plans to have surgery to repair a torn labrum in her hip after the season.
"Kaicee was telling me that when she came here as a freshman, her goal was to beat BYU one year, and this is her last chance," Harding said. "She's a great role model. Last year when she tore her ACL again, the team was devastated by it, but she kept up her attitude and was able to help them deal with it."
Win or lose, Westminster won't have much time off to prepare for unanimous No. 1 Colorado State. After that, the Griffins close out the season with non-conference play heading into the RMWLL conference tournament.
"Any team is beatable at this point. Lacrosse is one of those games where that does happen. CSU should not take us lightly," Farrell said. "We're definitely capable of giving them a run for their money."
» #LMRanks: WCLA DII Top 20 Breakdown » #LMRanks: WCLA D1 Top 20 Breakdown » #LMRanks: Julia Joo, WCLA D2 Preseason POY » #LMRanks: Tully Moorhead, WCLA Preseason POY » Colorado State Headlines WCLA DI Top 20 » James Madison Tops WCLA DII Preseason Ranks » Vote for LM's Preseason Players of the Year! » LM's Preseason POY Vote: WCLA Division II » LM's Preseason POY Vote: WCLA Division I
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