If you want to find a place where a shortage of chicken nuggets is a cause for exclamation, look no further than the Macalester women’s lacrosse team. The best kept secret of Macalester club sports, women’s lacrosse is off to its best season yet in its first year in the North Central Women’s Lacrosse League (NCWLL).
Chicken nuggets, a pseudonym for ‘offsides,’ is similar to soccer offsides, although soccer offsides is called when an offensive player proceeds past the last defender whereas lacrosse offsides occurs when a striker moves past the last four defenders. (In lacrosse, there is one goalie, four defenders, five midfielders and three offensive attackers on the field at once.)
“If you yell out, ‘We’re offsides,’ the refs are going to catch it right away,” said team captain Camille Cauchois ’13. “We have code words that we use to communicate.”
After several years as a provisional member of the NCWLL, the Macalester women’s team became a full league member this year, allowing them to qualify for the conference’s playoffs. As a club sport, the team receives funding assistance from Macalester, although not at the same level as the varsity sport programs. The school pays for some equipment, travel expenses, referees and the head coach, Susanne Murphy ’12 (who was also last year’s captain).
While the lacrosse team’s official season begins in the spring, the team is active year-round with an unofficial fall season and winter practices. Practices are once a week in winter and twice a week during the fall and spring, although Murphy said that the team is very flexible schedule-wise. “We’re accepting of everyone that wants to play,” she said.
So far, the team boasts a 3-2 record this spring, with one of their losses to perennial powerhouse Bethel on a snowy early April day when all other spring varsity sports events were cancelled.
Prior to their snow-filled spring season, Jenny Ledig ’13, Claire Pruitt ’15 and Cauchois had to attend the annual rules change meeting.
“For our uniforms, the stripes aren’t straight, they’re a bit diagonal,” Cauchois said. “Apparently that’s illegal.”
To entertain themselves during the meeting, the three invented a rap called ‘Street LAX.’
“The more serious mindset behind it is to play your heart out, and it’s also…we get kind of frustrated with the rules sometimes,” Cauchois said. “In a way, I guess it’s this desire to have more ‘lax’ or relaxed rules to just play more and not care about things like if our stripes are straight.”
“I missed that board meeting I think,” said goalie Fernanda Canessa ’15. “Instead of ‘Go Mac,’ we’re always like, ‘Street LAX.’”
“It’s an inside joke,” Murphy said. “Now that I’m coach I have no idea what it’s about.”
Cauchois said that at the rules meeting the penalty box was referred to as the ‘Bad Girls Box.’ “[Ledig’s] made it into the box a few times,” Cauchois said. “I believe she holds the record so far.”
While team members may be frequenting the bad girls box more frequently this year, they have come a long way from their beginnings.
“When I started here, the team was really small,” Murphy said. “We weren’t in the league yet, so maybe we’d have a scrimmage per semester.”
“By my junior year, we had about 30 girls, so basically we went around campus telling people about it,” Murphy said. “Now more girls who have experience are coming in, so it’s really nice.”
Murphy took over mid-season after former head coach Heather Brick resigned. “[Brick] coaches so many teams,” Murphy said. “I think she felt like our team had gotten a foothold. We were a solid team. She really wants to see lacrosse grow in Minnesota.”
“I was happy to step in,” Murphy said. “If it wasn’t this team I would have been coaching a high school team or something just because I love the sport so much.”
Murphy said she began playing on the boy’s lacrosse team as a freshman in high school because she wanted to take a spring sport but didn’t want to join the track team. “It was a sport that no one really knew about,” she said. “A lot of people don’t have any experience, so if you want to start a new sport, it’s a good one to try because there will at least be several people at your same level.”
Cauchois never played lacrosse before Macalester. She was encouraged to join her first-year by her FYC preceptor Anne Brown.
Canessa meanwhile began playing women’s lacrosse her junior year of high school. “I started out playing goalie my junior year and I’ve been playing it ever since,” she said. “No one else wanted to do it.”
Canessa said she wasn’t initially aware that there was a big difference between the more physical men’s lacrosse and the more regulated women’s lacrosse. “I was like, ‘Yeah, good way to get out my anger,’” she said.
“[At Macalester] academics are our main priority, but this is our passion as well,” Canessa said. “A bunch of us are also involved with other clubs on campus. I don’t think you really see that with other schools that they’re not really spread whereas I think we do have that diversity, but we’re also really dedicated to the sport.”
An insurgence of new players has helped instill the team with a sense of focus. “The games have been going really well,” Murphy said. “We’ve got a lot of freshman who knew what they were doing, which in the past didn’t happen. And a lot of our seniors have been playing now for four years and they also know what they’re doing. We’re finally taking off.”
While victories are becoming more common for the team this year, fun social events and community events like Relay for Life are of equal importance to team members. Cauchois recalled one of last semester’s team events, a weekend progressive event where team members dressed up as reality television stars. This semester, she said a song-themed progressive is in the mix. “They’re fantastic events that allow us to grow closer and bond off the field,” she said.
“We always talk about making music videos to songs,” Canessa said. “Last semester with ‘Call Me Maybe’ … I think we started the trend. Obviously not via the Internet and no one else saw that, but I think in our hearts, it was us that made that song popular around not even the campus but the world.”
Canessa often thinks of creative solutions to bring the team together socially and in training. “I really want to rollerblade in Mall of America as a team,” she said. “I think it would make us a lot closer because I’m pretty sure the security would chase us and that would also be good for conditioning.”
Looking ahead, Cauchois has high hopes. “We’ve been able to pull together strong defense and offense,” she said. “In the past, we had more strong individual players, but it’s come together more of a team effort this year.”
“I really like club sports at Macalester because it gives you a chance to be on a team and be part of a community without having to make that time commitment for a varsity sport,” Murphy said. “You’ll have fun. You’ll meet people.”
Cauchois said she sees the team becoming even stronger in the future. “We have a really strong group of [sophomores],” Cauchois said. “If we keep having these core groups in every year, I think we’ll definitely be able to continue [improving].”
Canessa pointed out that this year the team defeated an Augsburg’s team that is considered a varsity team. “I think we’re at a really good point right now,” she said. “I think next year if we can get the same number of girls and the amount of interest, I think we’ll be good. Obviously, the goal is to become a varsity sport.”
Canessa said that the team’s future success ultimately relies on their elimination of ‘chicken nuggets,’ which can prevent goals from counting. “This one game the ref figured out what chicken nuggets was,” Canessa said. “Someone was like, ‘Chicken nuggets,’ and a couple minutes later the ref was like, ‘You better watch out for your nuggets.’”
“I think we should do strawberry cheesecake or shortcake,” Canessa said.
“We just have fun with it,” Canessa said. “I think we have a pretty good balance.”
The lacrosse team closes out their season this weekend at a little-known field in La Crosse, WI.