After the Dartmouth girls’ lacrosse team gave up 16 goals in back-to-back games, coach Scott Richards decided to change from man-to-man to a zone defense. The move paid off.
The Indians (12-0-1) allowed 46 goals in their first four games, but after the switch their goals-against average dropped to 6.5 over nine games.
“We switched to zone and the kids bought into that right away,” said Richards, in his second year at the helm. “We were strictly man-to-man but we stuck with it and it worked.”
Richards, who was a basketball player and is also the assistant girls’ basketball coach, said that his background on the court made for a smooth transition.
“I am absolutely more comfortable with the zone as a coach. I studied [lacrosse] a little bit and I could make the same generalizations as I do in basketball. The language was already there. It seemed like a natural fit.”
With emphasis now on the defensive end, it has freed Dartmouth’s attack from the pressure of having to score a dozen goals a game. They are able to slow down the game and be patient, capitalizing on scoring opportunities.
Sophomore Emily Quinn, who transferred to Dartmouth this year from Moses Brown School in Providence, is leading the Indians in goals. She averages four a game, nearing 50 for the season.
Junior midfielder Nicole Simas is second in scoring despite only picking up lacrosse stick a couple of years ago — like Richards, she’s primarily a basketball player.
“Nicole really makes it go for us,” said Richards. “She has a real nose for the ball. And she brings her basketball background to the lacrosse field as far as setting up the offense and give-and-goes with Emily.
“There are a lot of things that relate offensively and defensively in basketball and lacrosse, especially in the girls’ game. That’s kind of how I relate everything when I’m coaching; I even sometimes say court instead of field.”
The majority of the players, however, are products of the Dartmouth youth lacrosse program that started about 10 years ago. Ellie Gamache, for example, is a just freshman but leads the Indians’ defense along with senior Tess Arruda.
A 12-0-1 record and a secure hold on first place in the Maritime Conference are great, but Richards says their goal is to succeed in the postseason. Last year, the Indians were knocked out in the first round by Wellesley.
“We’re kind of under the radar here on the South Coast,” said Richards. “Getting teams to come down to where we are is difficult. We don’t really have a reputation as a lacrosse powerhouse.”
Richards is optimistic that can change, but postseason wins are crucial.
“At this point we’ve already qualified for the tournament. It would be nice to make a Boston school come down to us for a change. We want to put ourselves in the best position,” he said. “Every win gets us closer to having a home game in the tournament.”
One thing that will definitely help as the season goes on is the depth of the Indians’ roster.
“We do have depth. I would say that at least 12 people have scored multiple goals in games this year. Emily and Nicole score the majority but this year we are more balanced than we have been in the past.”