Women's Lacrosse |
April 12, 2011
By Rachel Hundley
When Paige Stratton first arrived at the University of Cincinnati as a freshman in 2007, the lacrosse senior became a part of the inaugural varsity UC lacrosse team. The program began with just 19 student-athletes, not even enough to scrimmage or effectively run drills. Today, there are 36 players and an abundance of talent and energy surrounding a program that is still in its beginning stages.
Many student-athletes choosing a college would scoff at the notion of attending a school with no history or tradition, but Stratton and her fellow seniors walked into an empty vessel and helped build a thriving program that they can proudly call their own.
Stratton, a defensive starter from Annapolis, Md., bought into the idea that UC lacrosse head coach Lellie Swords sold to her - a chance to be a part of something special and an opportunity to begin a heritage.
"I didn't want to just go to a program and follow traditions I didn't understand. UC starting a program gave us the opportunity to make traditions instead of following someone else's," Stratton said. "The senior and junior classes are really trying to leave a mark on this program and begin new traditions. The growth and the strides we are making in establishing this lacrosse culture in Cincinnati will continue to change and evolve into a winning program."
The Bearcats have consistently made strides every season toward establishing a successful program and setting the foundation for a winning tradition. Now playing her last season with UC, Stratton sees a team capable of building up that winning foundation, and even putting a crack in the BIG EAST Conference glass ceiling where the Bearcats are winless in their four seasons.
"As a team, we try to set season goals, daily practice goals, and game goals. The goal that means the most to me would be winning our first BIG EAST game. It is something that we have worked so hard for and this year more than ever, I believe we will accomplish that goal," Stratton said. "Everything is coming together this year because we have the talent, the leadership, the experience and the heart to do it."
Stratton has no regrets when reflecting about her time at the University of Cincinnati and as a member of the lacrosse team. With less than a full season remaining of her time as a Bearcat, she remains focused not on individual goals, but on building up her teammates and leaving the UC program stronger and more competitive than when she first arrived four years ago.
"I really just want to encourage and inspire my teammates. Being a senior, I just want to soak it all in and not take anything for granted," Stratton said. "Sometimes, playing at this level, you lose sight or forget about why you play. I hope I am able to effectively lead the defense, but more importantly, I want to be able to graduate with no regrets - knowing I played my hardest every moment I was on that field representing Cincinnati."
Next season, Stratton and her fellow trailblazing seniors will be gone and the Bearcats will have to go on without the players who began building their heritage. Even though she will not be at every practice and every game, Stratton sees a bright future for the University of Cincinnati lacrosse program.
"I have such high expectations for this team in the next couple of years. I am certain UC will be a presence in the BIG EAST and will transform from the underdog to the team to beat," Stratton said. "I know we are capable of achieving great things. I say `we' because although I won't necessarily still be a part of the team, I will always be a member of the UCLax family."
A family that Paige Stratton helped build.