By 2nd Lt. Meredith Kirchoff
Academy Public Affairs
The Academy women’s lacrosse team concluded their season at the Tri-Service Academy Tournament held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. April 26. The team capped the year with a victory over the U.S. Coast Guard Academy 15-12.
“They made the Coast Guard work for every goal they scored,” said head coach Second Lt. Leanne Babcock, a logistics readiness officer in the 21 LRS at Peterson Air Force Base. “The team has only one and one-half years of experience on average, but by the end of the season they played like a team who has been together for years.”
The team traded leads with Coast Guard for the entire game until Air Force pulled ahead with three goals in the last two minutes of play to seal the win.
Women’s lacrosse is a club sport at the Academy and a member of the Rocky Mountain Women’s Lacrosse League. The lacrosse team placed fifth in the RMWLL this season. Most popular on the east coast, lacrosse teams are becoming more prevalent throughout the country and the sport is growing at the Academy with over 25 athletes on the team Lieutenant Babcock said.
Members cite team cohesion, loyalty and leadership as driving forces in the success and growth of the team. One of two captains, Cadet 1st Class Jess Laco, says the women on the team truly rely on each other and are motivated to work hard for one another.
“I have made many lifelong friends on this team, who were crucial parts of my support structure here at the Academy,” said Cadet Laco, a member of Cadet Squadron 10 and going on to be a finance officer after graduation.
Younger members of the team agree that their teammates have provided strength both on and off the field.
“I wouldn’t make time for it if it was not worth it and the people are what make it worth going down there every day and working hard to not let them down,” Cadet 2nd Class Amanda Robillard said. “I have made some of my best friends on that team and know that above anything, they will always be there for me if I need them.”
As a club sport the women’s lacrosse team faces many challenges that intercollegiate teams do not have to overcome. Practice times and venues as well as budget and travel are just a few of the obstacles the team pulls together to work through said Lieutenant Babcock.
In addition, the team has competed for over three years without a coach staff until this season when Lieutenant Babcock, midfield coach First Lt. Joe Picariello, and strength & conditioning coach Second Lt AJ Berger from the 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB came onto the scene.
“The seniors have always done a great job leading the team but now that we have coaches I think our team will be able to reach a new level,” said Amanda’s twin sister C2C Alicia Robillard. The balance between being an authority figure and a motivator was difficult for the captains, who ran the team in absence of coaches, Cadet Laco added.
To increase competitiveness on the field, the team put in extra time at the gym incorporating non-traditional training this season. The coaching staff introduced CrossFit workouts at a local CrossFit gym.
Tremendous pride in the team’s performance this season is shared by coaches and players alike.
“I am most proud that they set the example of being sportsmanlike for all of the teams in the RMWLL,” Lieutenant Babcock said. “As the only service academy in this league, it’s important to represent the Air Force, USAFA, and our team in a positive light.”
The women’s lacrosse team looks forward to living out their motto, “Be the Best” next year and for many seasons to come. With a dedicated coaching staff as well, as three officers in charge from the Academy’s faculty, the team has a bright future Lieutenant Babcock said.
“The team will be a force to be reckoned with in the RMWLL this next season!” she said. “Because of the positive growth, the incoming team captains and coaching staff have a strategic plan in the works to build an entire women’s lacrosse program. It’s exciting for the team because each of them is playing a vital role in the whole process.”