After losing its head coach following the 2022 season, the ASU women's lacrosse team is entering a new era with an unrecognizable roster and fresh coaching staff.
ASU lost 16 players to graduation during the offseason, prompting now head coach Taryn VanThof to recruit as soon as she took the helm. The group of graduates included four of the Sun Devils' top five goal scorers, who together scored 72% of the team's goals last season.
ASU has a well-rounded group of 11 freshmen this season, made up of four attackers, three midfielders and three defenders. VanThof said her first signing class could play multiple positions and keep its opponents guessing.
"We were able to cover the whole field with this signing class," VanThof said. "The midfielders we brought in can go on either end and impact both sides of the ball. The attackers have produced at an impressive level and the defender has the toughness and instincts we are looking for on the back end."
While VanThof recruited some of the team's freshmen, many players had already committed to ASU before former head coach Tim McCormack left the program. Despite his departure, freshman attacker Lydia Oldknow gave the new staff a chance and grew to appreciate VanThof's coaching style.
"(McCormack) went to Johns Hopkins in the summer, and then we found out the (new) coaching staff is amazing," Oldknow said. "It's been different, though, just with like the game of play from last year to this year, but we're still making changes. It's definitely progressing very well."
Already exhibiting promising offensive skills, freshman attacker Teagan Ng has led the team's freshmen in her short collegiate career. Ng has scored seven goals through her first three games as a Sun Devil, including hat-tricks against St. Bonaventure University on Feb. 18 and Towson University on Feb. 26.
Ng excels at dodging defenders, rushing toward the net, and quickly putting a shot past the goalkeeper. She said she owes her success to her teammates who know her tendencies and give her enough space to weave past defenders. Ng also credits assistant coach Haley Warden for teaching her new scoring methods.
Also leading the team in scoring, Oldknow said she improved her dodging and shooting abilities before the season, adding that she has a higher lacrosse IQ and can understand plays better. Oldknow has recorded three goals on twelve shots and contributed three assists so far this season.
Besides her freshmen, VanThof retained all 12 of ASU's sophomores during the coaching transition. Most notably, sophomore midfielder Berit Brookfield returns after earning playing time in 15 games last season. Brookfield has scored three goals on six shots this season while winning two draw controls.
Headlining the Sun Devils' defense, sophomore goalkeeper Katie Vahle returned to the net after starting all of ASU's 19 games last season. As a freshman, Vahle posted a .409 save percentage and a 10-8-0 record. However, Vahle faces competition from junior goalkeeper Flynn Murphy, who started in the Sun Devils' win against St. Bonaventure.
Managing such a young roster, VanThof has created a competitive environment on the team as players vie for game time. Ng said VanThof's roster isn't set in stone and can change depending on which players prove they deserve to hit the field.
"We need to challenge each other every day because no one knows who's going to play," Ng said. "We always give it our all to fight for those spots."
As ASU kicks into full gear for the 2023 season, VanThof's young players have bought into the team culture and wish to build on the program's previous success. Oldknow said the group is tight-knit and pushes each other to succeed, adding they have high expectations for themselves.
"Definitely make it to Pac-12 championship as a team with a new coaching staff," Oldknow said. "I definitely think we can make it there. It'll be a ride, but we got it."
ASU lacrosse's next matchup is Friday at Jacksonville University starting at 2 p.m. MST followed by a Sunday game at Florida before Pac-12 play begins on March 17.
Edited by Walker Smith, Jasmine Kabiri, Reagan Priest and Piper Hansen.