David Borne | Sports Editor
Jan. 30, 2020
The “sophomore slump” is a term sports fans and analysts love to toss around. Anytime a player, coach or team exceeds expectations in their first season, there’s always the fear that they will fail to make progress the following year.
After leading her team to an Atlantic 10 Championship tournament appearance in her first season at Duquesne, women’s lacrosse Head Coach Corinne Desrosiers isn’t ready to be complacent in 2020.
“My hope is this year, with a lot of new faces, we can do a lot of brainwashing. We can get the kids out of habits that they were in last year, it held us back in certain areas,” Desrosiers said. “I think we’ve made gains in that sense, especially defensively. We’re definitely talented and we should come down with some wins. Our hope is that we do better this year than last year.”
A number of Duquesne’s key contributors from last year’s nine-win team will be back on the Bluff this spring. Rilee Bradshaw, Duquesne’s leader in points (58) and goals (54) last season and First-Team All-Atlantic 10 selection Maddie Hart will lead the attack.
Juniors Michaela Connolly and Carlee Braverman, who combined for 89 points last season, will continue to be relied upon on the offensive end as well.
Duquesne will be captained by Bradshaw, along with senior midfielder Kirsten Barnes. Their work ethic, combined with the respect they’ve earned from their teammates, made the choice clear for Desrosiers when she was looking to name captains last fall.
“[Bradshaw and Barnes] were both not even starters for me last year,” Desrosiers said. “They grew with the evolution of the program. They always had a team first mentality, they outworked their teammates at practice every day.”
On defense, All-A-10 first team defender Sydney Reed and goalie Maddy Curtis will look to lock things down for the Dukes. Reed, a junior, finished second on the team in ground balls (41) and caused turnovers (40) last season.
Curtis enters her senior season ranked eighth in school history with 223 career saves and 10th in wins with 10 victories.
Megan McCrea headlines a group of 11 freshmen that joins the Dukes this season. Desrosiers expects McCrea to be a starter for the team this season.
“She’s explosive in her speed and has a stick that can rival an attacker’s, just with how good she is with her stick work,” Desrosiers said on McCrea. “You don’t see that kind of handling on a defensive level. She’s super aggressive, the kind you either have or you don’t. She’s looking to make a big impact for us if we can keep her healthy.”
One dramatic change for Desrosiers and the Dukes this season is the strength of their non-conference schedule. Duquesne will be taking on some of the nation’s top programs, including Ohio State, Penn State and Notre Dame.
While the second-year head coach knows that these games will be a challenge, scores and results aren’t everything she hopes to take out of them. The experience her young team can get, and the lessons they can learn against stiff competition are invaluable.
“We have 31 kids on our team. 22 of them are underclassmen,” Desrosiers said. “So if we’re talking about depth or experience on the field, those teams have us in those categories. We get to provide our young players with an opportunity to see, feel and experience it, and then to take that back and play every day. I really think that’s how you should be building a program — with a championship mentality.”
With the program heading in the right direction, Desrosiers intends to keep the ball rolling this season. With improved results on the field and bolstered recruiting efforts, she’s on a mission to permanently etch Duquesne’s name into the top of the A-10 standings.
“It’s easy to ride the high, sit back a little bit, maybe get lazy, complacent or comfortable,” Desrosiers said.
“I think for us, if we can do our job in recruiting and we can isolate those players that help bring us to the next level against the very talented A-10 kids that are coming in, I think we’ll be fine. In terms of a five-year plan, I’m absolutely hopeful that were one of those top-two teams in the A-10 every single year. With consistency from our current kids and our continuation in recruiting, we can get it done.”
The Dukes open their season against Ohio State at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7th at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.