On Tuesday (Jan. 8) afternoon, in a window of time that featured rain, hail, and sunshine, Ashland University's women's lacrosse team had its first official practice in program history.
With practice underway and the Feb. 23 season-opener coming quickly, the excitement level is high surrounding the women's lacrosse program.
"The excitement level for the first day of the season never wanes, even as a coach," said Ashland women's lacrosse assistant coach Becky Smith. "It's especially strong now because it's a brand-new program, and the responsibility of building a culture and winning attitude for this season and beyond is always in the back of our minds."
"It's fun to see all of the things you have been working for the past year or so to finally get to the point of actually playing," said Ashland women's lacrosse head coach Shaun Williamson.
This isn't Williamson's first go-around with starting a lacrosse program from scratch. Ashland will be Williamson's fourth program-building project. He previously started the programs at NCAA Division II schools Lees-McRae (N.C.) and Belmont Abbey (N.C.) before becoming the first women's lacrosse coach at Berry.
"I think the special part for me is that I will be connected uniquely with Ashland, as well as the previous three programs I started as the first head coach that laid the foundation for the women's lacrosse program," said Williamson. "I think once the season is over, we will have some time to look back and see what we have done."
Williamson's previous experiences have prepared him for the road that lies ahead for Eagle women's lacrosse.
"The biggest thing I have learned is understanding that it is a long and sometimes frustrating process, and patience is key. I have always told our team to only focus on us. We are not going to worry about who we are playing, just about our performance. I believe if we do that, the success will come," said Williamson.
There is plenty on the field to look forward to with the season now officially underway as practices have begun.
"I can already see we have a positive, enthusiastic group," said Smith. "We have what you need when laying the building blocks of a season, and ultimately a program."
The first game in Ashland's women's lacrosse history will take place at Ferguson Field on Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. against Notre Dame College.