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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Women’s lacrosse ‘ready to rally’ following coaching change seven weeks before season

Peyton McKenzie
Women’s lacrosse interim head coach Jordan Christopher shouts directions during an early February practice.

 It is rare for a college program of any kind to lose its head coach less than two months prior to its season opener. Yet, that’s the situation Quinnipiac women’s lacrosse finds itself in. 

Quinnipiac Athletics announced Jan. 3 that Tanya Kotowicz, the Bobcats’ boss since 2017, was “leaving the program.” Then-associate head coach Jordan Christopher immediately took the reins as interim head coach. 

Kotowicz was allegedly fired for playing an injured athlete during the team’s fall season, an investigation by The Chronicle found. However, internal documents and interviews conducted by The Chronicle cast doubt on the university’s narrative of the incident in question and raised questions about Quinnipiac’s athletic training practices. 

The Bobcats’ 2023 season was their most successful under Kotowicz. She led the team to a 10-8 record, the most wins for Quinnipiac in a single season since 2011, when it went 13-5, won the NEC and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Bobcats have not been back to the tournament since. 

Things were just starting to click. Where does the team go from here? 

“We’re just looking forward,” graduate student and captain defender Melissa Murphy said. “We can’t change what has happened. We’re going to take what we’ve learned from our coaching staff in the fall and carry it into the spring. Just rally. I think we’re ready to rally.” 

Christopher concurs. 

“(The team’s) mindset has been ready to win a MAAC championship,” she said. “I think it helps that I’m not new to them. It’s a different role for sure, but it’s a similar face and a similar message, and they’re ready to compete.” 

And among the team’s 32-person roster, there are familiar and fresh faces alike. The Bobcats are returning top scorers like sophomore attacker Mia Delmond and stout defenders like senior Julia Steneck. The program also brought on five freshmen and four transfers, the most notable of which being graduate student defender Corinna Lyon. 

Graduate student midfielder Amy Nicoloff and sophomore attacker Graham Straface battle during an early February practice. (Peyton McKenzie)

After four years with national powerhouse Loyola Maryland, Lyon arrived in Hamden and quickly earned a spot as captain alongside Murphy, senior midfielder Kalie Moore and graduate student midfielder Amy Nicoloff. 

“(Lyon) just understands people and wants to get to know people,” Christopher said. “She knew that her task was going to be hard, incorporating herself into a new team for this fifth year. But she just has completely embraced it from the moment she stepped foot on this campus.” 

However, the most crucial loss Quinnipiac faces ahead of its campaign is that of the reigning MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year Kat Henselder, who was the full-time backstop for the Bobcats for the last three years. 

Losing Henselder to graduation can potentially provide a spark to the keepers who are looking to carry on her legacy. The defenders must also adapt to the idea that someone new is going to be their last line of defense. 

“We were lucky that we had Kat obviously, but not much has changed with the way we operate as a defense,” Murphy said. “Luckily (two of the three) other goalies have watched Kat throughout their years. They all go through the same practices every single day. So I see potential in them.” 

The battle for the starting goalkeeper spot this season will be between junior Lindsay Mazzucco and seniors Hadley Bosworth and Rebekah Lenoble. 

Mazzucco saw action in six games in 2023 as Henselder’s backup and Lenoble played in 17 games total between her two previous schools, George Washington and Presbyterian. 

“Every goalkeeper has a unique set of skills,” Christopher said. “All three of them have done some really good stuff in this preseason … I wouldn’t say that we know for sure who’s going to be our starting goalkeeper right now, which is good. We want that competition all over the field, not just in net. But I think they’re doing a really good job of supporting each other but competing as well.” 

The keepers will be guided by new assistant coach Allyson Baribault, who was hired on Aug. 31. 

“She was a goalkeeper herself, so she has some expertise there,” Christopher said. “(She’s) getting a little bit more involved on our defensive end now too, which is good, but goalkeepers are her primary focus.” 

When everything comes together, Quinnipiac might have one of the more talented rosters in the conference. However, it begs the question: How much talent does it take to beat tradition? 

MAAC women’s lacrosse is in the midst of one of its great dynasties. Quinnipiac’s cross-state rival Fairfield is looking to capture its sixth-straight title in 2024. And since 2011, only Fairfield and Canisius have called themselves champions, with both teams winning six championships each. 

For the Bobcats, that leaves winning the MAAC as a lofty goal, but any team, and person, should have smaller goals on the way to glory. 

“Most people talk about a win-loss record. For us, I think it’s the growth of this program and the progression that we can make,” Christopher said. “There’s a couple teams in our conference that we haven’t beaten in some of these kids’ time here. I think that’s a good metric for us right now.” 

Those two teams are Fairfield, who Quinnipiac is winless against in 15 attempts, and Niagara, who the Bobcats are 1-10 against. That lone win came in March 2002. Quinnipiac plays both Fairfield (April 10) and Niagara (April 24) on the road this season. 

The Bobcats were picked to finish No. 4 in the conference’s preseason poll, behind both Fairfield (first) and Niagara (third). With off-season drama potentially playing a role in Quinnipiac’s expectations this season, the team’s first chance to silence the doubters will come on Feb. 21 when it travels to play its Whitney Avenue rival Yale. 

The loss of Kotowicz might have been a shock to the team and the Quinnipiac community at first, but to reiterate what Murphy said, “We can’t change what has happened.” 

For now, there’s nothing left to do besides play the games and work to win the Bobcats’ first MAAC title. 

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About the Contributors
Michael LaRocca
Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor
Peyton McKenzie
Peyton McKenzie, Creative Director

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