Head lacrosse coach talks about upcoming season

The Fresno State lacrosse team is getting off to a head start into the 2013 season. The Bulldogs hosted their first-ever fall scrimmage on Saturday against San Diego State.

The program – about to celebrate five seasons since its inception – will open the season Feb. 17 of next year against Presbyterian. Fresno State traveled to Palo Alto on Sunday to compete in its final fall scrimmage against Stanford.

Though the team’s season doesn’t start until next year, second-year coach Jessica Pausewang said she has seen consistent improvement throughout the offseason in this year’s edition.

“Where we left off last year, we have gone leaps and bounds from that already,” Pausewang said. “We’re a really strong team in the midfield. We’re doing a great job supporting each other. And it’s really nice to how well they’re working together so early in the season.”

This year’s lacrosse team will boast its most complete senior class to date – 10 seniors return from last year’s team. The team’s eight freshmen on the 24-player roster make this year’s team one that is “old and young at the same time,” Pausewang said.

“We have a wonderful set of seniors who are really taking the leadership role, nurturing the freshmen and bringing them right up to speed,” Pausewang said.

One of the key players to return from last year is junior attacker Briana Heatherington. Heatherington led the team last year with 16 goals as a sophomore.

“Briana is a really strong attacker,” Pausewang said.

“With Briana, she’s not only a threat going to goals. She’s also a threat as a feeder. It’s going to keep the other defense on their toes.”

The Bulldogs’ 2013 schedule will feature four homes games (Oregon, California, San Diego State, UC Davis), the program’s fewest since its inaugural season in 2009. In the middle of the season, the Bulldogs will go through a five-game road stretch. Four of those games will be played on the East Coast.

“I think that we have a really competitive schedule both in conference and out of conference,” Pausewang said. “For me, it doesn’t matter if we’re home or away. We’re going to win… The girls have such a great mindset about going on the road.”

The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation has consistently grown since the Bulldogs joined in 2009. The Mountain West Conference’s San Diego State was added as a MPSF member for women’s lacrosse last year.

Pac-12 native USC’s lacrosse team will begin its inaugural season this year as a member of the MPSF. The University of Colorado’s lacrosse team (also a Pac-12 member in all other sports) will join the MPSF in 2014.

The MPSF is one of 13 conferences to receive an automatic qualification for the 2013 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Tournament, which expanded from 16 to 26 teams this year.

With a conference that continues to grow, the one thing Pausewang said she looks forward to this season is having the team’s early offseason preparations take effect in competitive play.

“Letting [the team] see all the extra hours that they’re putting in – the extra conditioning, the lifting and the practices… letting them see how much that pays off when we get the wins,” Pausewang said.