It’s been a slow build for the Fresno State lacrosse team and its leading scorer — but a new season in 2013 promises another step forward.
When junior Briana Hetherington was a kid growing up in New Jersey, the plan was that she was going to play soccer in college. However, soccer lacked the physicality that Hetherington wanted and lacrosse could provide.
“My parents were pretty set on me playing soccer,” Hetherington said. “They had me on every club team. It wasn’t until junior year it occurred to me that I could play lacrosse in college, and that to me sounded much better.”
The nature of lacrosse appealed to Hetherington’s desire to be active and avoid the boredom she sometimes felt in soccer.
“I like to move around and be physical and do a bunch of different things,” Hetherington said. “Lacrosse had it all. It was a little mix of basketball, a little mix of hockey and a little mix of all the sports in one. That’s what makes it so unique and special.”
Many athletes that play a sport in college have been playing from a very young age.
Hetherington, by comparison, didn’t start lacrosse until her freshman year in high school and is still a relative newcomer.
She has embraced the challenge with creativity.
“I ended up starting varsity freshman year, and I just had this extreme passion for it, and I was just burned out on soccer,” Hetherington said. “I worked on trying to do new things.”
Fresno State coach Jessica Pausewang saw that willingness in Hetherington to experiment since she took over the program before last season.
“She is very creative,” Pausewang said. “She tries different things on the field, and it’s nice to see that side of her. She tries to create opportunities not just for herself but for her teammates. I think she does a good job of seeing what the defense gives her and pushes back and sees what she can take from them. She’s added more stuff to her repertoire and is able to use that in different ways.”
Last season Hetherington led the team in scoring with 16 goals and was second on the team in assists with six. Combined, she led the team in total points, something Pausewang said could happen again — though with a different formula of success.
“She’s definitely one our top attackers,” Hetherington said. “I think this season we’ve changed a lot as a team.
“We have a lot of new faces. It’s just finding her role, she might not be the top scorer this year but she might be top for points.
“We’ve talked about her role and using her wisdom and age on the team to guide the attack and look for feeding opportunities to make us a collective unit,” Pausewang added.
The overall improvement of the unit is Hetherington and Pausewang’s primary concern of.
“I think it’s been a crazy transition from freshman year,” Hetherington said. “The program has grown, and it keeps growing and growing. I see this program going big places. We’re not satisfied. We’re going to keep building until we can get all the way up top.”
For the 10 seniors on the team, this will be their last chance to contribute as players to a program that started from scratch just a few years ago.
“Knowing this is their last hoorah playing, they really want to go out with a lasting impression,” Pausewang said.
The group enters the 2013 season with some momentum after ending last season with arguably the biggest win in program history against UC Davis on the road.
It was Fresno State’s final game of the season — the Bulldogs had yet to win on the road — and after two overtime periods, the Bulldogs left with a 12-11 win.
The Bulldogs also notched their first win in program history last season, beating Long Island 17-12.
“Ending the season on the biggest upset in DI I think is a great starting point,” Pausewang said. “For us, we want to finish the 60 minutes strong every time.”