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February 11, 2010

Hokies still young but talent and attitude have them headed in the right direction

By: Matt Kovatch

Junior Allie Emala is Tech’s leading returning scorer, but she will also be counted on to become the vocal leader of the offensive attack.

The 2009 Virginia Tech lacrosse team had its most successful season in head coach Katrina Silva’s tenure, going 7-10 and earning its first conference win since joining the ACC. But like all head coaches hoping to rebuild a program, Silva is constantly looking to take the next step forward and that’s what the 2010 season is all about. Here’s what Silva had to say in advance of the Feb. 13 season opener with Drexel:

IHS: The team had its best year of your tenure last season. What do you feel has been accomplished over the past few years?

KS: The exciting thing is that we’re better every year. As a coach, that’s certainly rewarding, but we have big goals. Last year was wonderful to get the first ACC win, but that was the goal from the very first year. We finally got a group of women who were committed to that idea and who weren’t willing to stop until they got what they wanted. To beat Boston College at home was certainly a big moment for Virginia Tech lacrosse and the path that we want to go on, but we’ve upped the ante for this year and it’s exciting to return almost the entire team.

IHS: You guys were young last year but made a lot of strides. You’re still young this year, but it’s an “experienced” young. How much did the girls learn from being thrown into action last year even if they weren’t quite ready yet?

KS: Last year, we dropped a game to Drexel in which we were winning the whole time but lost in the last minute. That was youth; that was timidness – and I think we’re past that now. We open with Drexel this year and we’ll see if our girls are ready to put their money where their mouths are and become the team that they want to become. We’ll have freshmen at key positions again this year, but we’re recruiting at a higher level than we ever have. That first recruiting class is all juniors now, so they need to help pave the way for the 12 freshmen that we have this year.

IHS: Among those freshmen are all three of your goalies. How is that situation panning out?

KS: Alex Gale and Alexis Carey are both battling it out for the starting spot right now. It could be a rotational thing or we could go with whoever is playing hot at the time, but they’ll certainly be key for us. They’re doing great so far. They complement each other and they have unique styles. It will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure of playing in big games.

IHS: How important will your lone senior, defender Jacquelyn Duggins, be toward protecting those young goalies?

KS: I think our whole defense is bearing some of the responsibility. They’ve kind of lived off of [departed senior goalie] Kari Morrison for the past two years, but now the tide has turned and we have two freshmen back there. You can’t stop opponents from shooting in the game of lacrosse, but we need to limit our opponents to shots that our goalies can save. Jacquelyn was actually out all fall after hip surgery, so that gave the younger players a chance to develop some leadership and identity on their own. Our defense has to be stingy and mean and Jacquelyn led that from the sidelines, but now that she’s back in the game, there’s nobody who works harder than her.

IHS: You lose your top scorer in Rachel Culp (54 goals), but you return two blossoming stars in junior Allie Emala (35) and sophomore Jessica Nonn (33). What can they do to pick up the scoring slack?

KS: The best thing they can do is lead their positions on the field and get more people involved. If all the weight falls on Allie’s shoulders, we may still lose because it’s easy to shut down one player. But if there are four or five threats, it’s a much harder unit to shut down. I think Allie is embracing that role and she’s really talking to the rest of the attack and finding ways for everyone to contribute. Jess is going to have to do the same thing with the midfield group.

IHS: Finally, what is your outlook for this season and beyond?

KS: We still have a lot of freshmen in key positions, so we’re probably another year out from making a lot of noise the way we want, but we certainly have a lot more options this year than ever. We’re much deeper, faster and more skilled than we’ve ever been. It’s the hardest-working group of girls we’ve ever had and they’re fun to be around. Maybe this year, we get two ACC wins and beat a team we’ve never beaten before. We have the talent – now we just have to work to make it happen.

Visit for a complete 2010 Lacrosse schedule.