by Patrick Gustavson
Though they won just four games all season, 2017 was not a lost year for Central Connecticut’s lacrosse team.
They may have struggled against non-conference opponents but the Blue Devils were competitive where it mattered, against Northeast Conference opponents. They went 3-4 in NEC play, falling just one game short of reaching the conference tournament. In fact, they were just one game behind the third-place team.
Fortunately for the young team, they welcome back a great deal of its core from last season.
One of the strengths of last year’s team was contributions from freshmen. Midfielder Megan Szawlowski, in just her first year with the program, led the team in points with 57, thanks to 30 goals and 27 assists. Her performance led to achieving numerous accolades, such as Conference Rookie of the Week on two occasions and was named to the first-team all-conference.
Attackers Morgan Sinton and Cameron Ruberti also had strong contributions as freshmen, fourth and sixth on the team in points, respectively. This trio will likely be even greater contributors with a year of experience under their belts.
Also returning is junior goalkeeper Jackie Branthover, who started every game in goal last season, and was named to the second-team all NEC team two years ago as a freshman.
Joining the existing core are eight freshmen. Livingston feels this group can have just as big of an impact as last year’s, calling them a “very talented group.”
“The freshmen will have the jitters, but I’m excited to see what they do,” Livingston said.
The team also adds sophomore defender Keely Henry, who transferred from UMass-Lowell, where she appeared in 12 games there as a freshman.
Despite losing some senior leaders, Livingston is not concerned about a possible lack of leadership, believing there are players that will step up.
“They’ve had all fall to adjust to the personnel,” she said. “I am confident in what I’ve seen that they’ll be able to adjust.”
Livingston is entering just her second season on the job. Through some of the struggles of last season, the greatest thing she learned was the importance of recognizing strengths. She believes the key to that is instilling confidence in her players.
“In their minds, they’re always messing up,” she said. “We watch a lot of film, so they can see what they’re doing well.”
The greatest strength Livingston has recognized in her team is their ability on offense.
“We have a strong offense, in the sense of being able to produce,” she said. “What we need to work on is production numbers, shooting more. We have the talent. It’s just getting them comfortable with shooting and missing, then shooting again.”
In the NEC preseason coaches’ poll, the Blue Devils were picked to finish sixth in the conference, out of eight teams. However, Livingston and her team do not take this into consideration. Livingston says she has her own expectations for her team that won just four games last season.
“Our potential is endless,” she said. “I’m just expecting us to do much better than last year.”
In order to qualify for the NEC tournament, the Blue Devils will need to finish in the top four in the conference, something Livingston feels her team is capable of.
The Blue Devils will open their season on Feb. 17, when they travel to Saint Joseph’s, the start of a three-game road streak. Their first home game of the season is when they take on Hartford on March 6.