Jan. 14, 2014
Swezey Interview | Abby Wheeler Interview | Photo Gallery
Despite temperatures warming up to 55 degrees after bitter cold last week, rainy weather threatened to dampen the Vanderbilt lacrosse team's first practice of the 2014 season.
But with the addition of the impressive multipurpose indoor facility, the Commodores headed inside and were able to practice for more than two hours on Monday. The team gathered for the first time since winter break as the season opener awaits in less than four weeks on Feb. 7 at Kennesaw State in Georgia. The Commodores then come back to Nashville two days later, on Feb. 9, to play Massachusetts in the home opener.
Vanderbilt heads in with high hopes, bringing back 21 returners and welcoming eight freshmen. Senior captains Brandi Byner, Alyssa Dunlap and Abby Wheeler anchor a squad returning 14 players who played in at least 11 games in 2013. In addition, three of last year's top scorers return, including senior captain Abby Wheeler (28 goals), sophomore Mallory Schonk (25 goals and 10 assists) and sophomore Alexa Kunowsky (19 goals).
The first day offered an opportunity for coach Cathy Swezey, entering her 17th season at Vanderbilt, to measure her team after more than a month away for winter break. With 25 days before the 19th season in program history begins, Swezey liked what she observed from a bunch full of experience and youth.
"We're really pleased with how the team did," Swezey said. "The first thing you're looking for is the acceleration, the conditioning and the fitness and our kids had that. You can tell there was no dropoff from the winter break and we couldn't be more pleased with that. Certainly, we have some fundamental things to sharpen up but overall we're really pleased."