BENNINGTON >> In 2015, the Southern Vermont College women's lacrosse team held its inaugural season, where they saw some great success as new squad.
The Mountaineers went 4-10 and made it into the New England Collegiate Conference playoff tournament.
Now after having one year under their belt, the Mountaineers feel they're ready to compete for a NECC title in 2016.
"We feel that we have a team that can compete for a conference title this season," said SVC coach Tom Otero. "We are a better team in all aspects of the game right now than we were from last season and the girls feel confident that they can go and beat any team we're going to play this season."
Last season, everything was new for the SVC team, which included girls playing the sport of lacrosse for the very first time.
In fact, only four out of the 14 girls on the team last year ever played lacrosse.
"Most of our team last year was new to the sport of lacrosse, so they had learn how to play the game and that was going to take time," Otero said. "Now that they all have played a year, they have gotten the fundamentals down and as we have seen in practice so far this season, their developments have exceeded what we were expecting coming into the season."
With nine of their players back from last season, the Mountaineers have a core group of girls back, led by their two leading scorers from last year, Emily Lesure and Melodie Orrell.
Orrell and Lesure, who both are captains this season for SVC, accounted for 77 of the Mountaineers' 114 goals last season, with Orrell scoring a team-high 43 goals and Lesure knocking in 34 goals.
The two juniors are joined by fellow junior Lauren Nesshoever and senior Emily Freling as team captains for SVC this season.
Nesshoever was a huge vocal leader on the field from her midfielder position last season, helping SVC set up their defensive formations, while Freling returns as the Mountaineers' top defender from last season.
"Our four captains are the backbone of the team," Otero said. "They can do so many things for us on and off the field. They can score goals, play good defense and most of all help the other girls on the team get better. They're all great leaders for us and it's great for us to have that again this season."
Another huge plus for SVC this year that they didn't have last year will be their freshman class.
This year was the first that Otero and his coaching were able to recruit high school seniors to come play for SVC, allowing the Mountaineers to add more talent to their roster.
A trio of freshman who will make an early impact for SVC this year will be Hailee Walker, Sydnee Julian and Aubrey Vierstra.
Walker was the second leading scorer in New York state Section II with 75 goals last year at Cohoes High School, giving the Mountaineers more fire power on offense.
Vierstra and Julian will on the other hand add depth in other areas for SVC, with Vierstra adding great speed for the Mountaineers as a midfielder or a defender, while Julian will strengthen the Mountaineers defense as a defender or as a goalkeeper.
"Being able to recruit and bring more kids into the program, is really going help us be a better team this year," Otero said. "We were able to add some great talent from the girls we brought in and with that continue the growth of our program."
Because of recruiting and now having 19 kids on the roster this season, SVC's biggest strength will be their depth.
"You need depth if you're going to have a good lacrosse team," Otero said. "Last year we had 12 sometimes 11 girls only suiting up and having to play the whole game or like we like to call it ironman lacrosse and that isn't going to help you win games. Now that we have close to 20 girls and we're going to be able to substitute a lot during the game, that's going to be huge for us to keep everyone fresh and to continue to get better as a team."
After one year of play, SVC is progressing nicely into being a top program in the NECC.
Most importantly, though, they are motivated to keep exceeding expectations.
"This group of girls is committed into making SVC a title contender in the NECC," Otero said. "They have all worked hard all offseason to get better and most importantly have gained the sense of confidence that they can compete with anyone in the conference. From the improvements I have see in practice to the hard working mentality these girls posses, I really am looking forward to seeing how far we can grow in year two."
The Mountaineers will open up the season at home against Rivier on Sunday, March 20th at 1 p.m.