Top Freshmen

Top Freshmen

Title IX in Action

TOP FRESHMEN

Article and Photos by Leigh Ernst Friestedt

2021 NCAA DI Women's Lacrosse

#44 Emma Ward (Syracuse - AttacK) drives around crease looking to go to goal with yellow lacrosse ball in right hand orange lacrosse stick - marked closely by #5 Belle Smith (Boston College - Midfield) with her yellow lacrosse stick on back side of Emma waering red and gold uniform with Boston College goalie #1 Rachel Hall in the background with oversize lacrosse stick up for a shot - Emma is wearing white and orange "Syracuse" jersey white headband and goggles and stutter-stepping with white cleats - 2021 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship Game © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#44 Emma Ward (Syracuse) vs #5 Belle Smith (Boston College) - 2021 National Championship Game

2021 marked a break-out year for three outstanding Freshmen in Division I Women’s Lacrosse: Belle Smith (Boston College), Emma Ward (Syracuse) and Caitlyn Wurzburger (UNC).  The Top Freshmen all came from the powerhouse ACC conference and played in the NCAA Final Four making significant contributions and tallying over 50 combined points for Championship Weekend. 

#5 Belle Smith (Boston College - Midfield) prepares to shoot yellow lacrosse ball right handed over her right shoulder looking at the goal through her goggles wearing red and gold uniform and white headband - 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#44 Syracuse attack Emma Ward carries lacrosse ball left handed against UNC at 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse Championship. Photo by Leigh Ernst Friestedt © Equity IX - SportsOgram
#13 Caitlyn Wurzburger takes blue and yellow lacrosse stick back over her right shoulder to shoot the yellow lacrosse ball wearing "Carolina" white and blue jersey with goggles - 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#5 Belle Smith (Boston College - Midfield) prepares to shoot yellow lacrosse ball right handed over her right shoulder looking at the goal through her goggles wearing red and gold uniform and white headband - 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#5 Belle Smith (Boston College)
#44 Emma Ward (Syracuse - Attack) cradles yellow ball right handed behind lacrosse cage looking to pass with her orange lacrosse stick wearing navy and orange "Syracuse 44" jersey with orange Nike logo on left shoulder and orange headband with goggles - 2021 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Final Four © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#44 Emma Ward (Syracuse)
#13 Caitlyn Wurzburger (UNC - Attack) drives to goal cradling yellow lacrosse ball right handed with blue nad yellow lacrosse stick wearing white and blue "Carolina" jersey and goggles - 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#13 Caitlyn Wurzburger (UNC)

With an extra year of eligibility extended to student-athletes impacted by the cancellation of college sports in 2020 due to the pandemic, 2021 proved to be a challenging year for Freshmen to earn playing time on teams stacked with veteran talent. 

Despite the extra hurdle this year – Belle Smith, Emma Ward and Caitlyn Wurzburger – broke through on three of the top teams in the country

What makes a Top Freshman exceptional  

The "IT" Factor

The “It Factor” is the critical element separating a  

Belle Smith (Boston College)

#5 Belle Smith (BC) - Midfield

#5 Belle Smith (Boston College - Freshmen Midfielder) cradles the yellow lacrosse ball right handed thought the midfield burning a Notre Dame defender who has fallen to the ground and is swinging her lacrosse stick to stop attacker - Belle is wearing a gold jersey with white headband and goggles - 2021 NCAA Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Freistedt
#5 Belle Smith (Boston College - Midfield) runs through midfield cradling yellow lacrosse ball right handed but on left side with Syracuse defenser coming across her right shoulder with lacrosse stick - Belle is wearing red and gold jersey with white headband and goggles - 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#5 Belle Smith (Boston College - Midfield) cradles the yellow lacrosse ball on right side wearing gold uniform and white headband with #23 UVA defender closely marking Emma and cross checking midsection with lacrosse stick - 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#5 Belle Smith (Boston College - Midfield) goes to goal left handed against Syracuse defender with orange lacrosse stick and blue headband - Belle is wearing red and gold jersey with white headband and goggles - 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt

A top recruit from Long Island, Belle Smith helped lead the Eagles to the programs’s first national title.  An outstanding offensive midfielder, Belle made significant contributions on attack   

Belle committed to Boston College during the Spring of her 8th-grade year.  her Freshman year in high-school and watched the Eagles 

Belle is an outstanding multi-sports athlete setting records in every sports she played at Westhampton High School: volley ball, basketball and lacrosse.  

Admittedly not the strongest, fastest or most skilled player on the field, Belle has the “It” Factor.  Belle’s lacrosse IQ is what makes her exceptional on the field which can be attributed to her years of playing multiple sports

Key to Belle’s transition

Emma Ward (Syraucse)

#44 Syracuse attack Emma Ward carries lacrosse ball left handed against UNC at 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse Championship. Photo by Leigh Ernst Friestedt © Equity IX - SportsOgram
#44 Emma Ward (Syracuse) - Attack

Taylor Moreno re-earned the starting position in goal for UNC late in the 2018 season after undergoing knee surgery midseason.  Moreno’s return to goal was integral to UNC’s post-season success – with 17 saves against VA Tech and 11 saves against Boston College – UNC won the 2018 ACC Championship and Moreno was named the ACC Tournament MVP.  Moreno continued to dominate the cage in NCAA post-season play, tying her all-time career high 17 saves in the Quarterfinals win over Northwestern.

Playing with a knee brace, Moreno has tremendous mobility and is one of the most athletic goalies in the history of women’s lacrosse.  A Redshirt-Freshman, Moreno had limited time in goal at Huntington High School playing behind Stony Brook’s starting goalie, Anna Tesoriero.  Missing her senior year due to a knee injury, Moreno relied on her extensive athletic background and club experience on Team Elevate to earn the starting position in goal for UNC her Freshman year.

The first girl in Huntington High School to play on the Varsity Football team as a kicker, Moreno is a model of excellence – breaking barriers as a multi-sport athlete earning varsity letters in lacrosse, soccer, basketball, track and football.  Coming out of the cage to help on ground balls and break the ball out of defense is second nature for an athletic Moreno.

Moreno continues to be a major force in and out of the cage for the Tar Heels in 2019 recording 100+ saves on the season.  While UNC lost in overtime against Maryland, Moreno exemplified her athleticism when she came out of the cage to recover a ground ball and cleared the missed shot over 60 yards down field with only five seconds left in regulation time to give UNC a last second shot at the game – Maryland and the 3,696 fans watched in awe.

Caitlyn Wurzburger (UNC)

#13 Caitlyn Wurzburger (UNC - Attack) drives to goal cradling yellow lacrosse ball right handed with blue nad yellow lacrosse stick wearing white and blue "Carolina" jersey and goggles - 2021 ACC Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#13 Caitlyn Wurzburger (UNC) - Attack

Caitlyn entered her Freshman year at UNC as the #1 recruit in the nation.  An early recruit who committed originally to Syracuse as 

Stepping up Sophomore Year

As a Freshman the pressure is off, the expectations for an upperclassman with the experience and training at the DI level are different than for a teenager coming out of high-school.  But after that first game, when the coaches see that a player is ready to make the transition to Division I lacrosse – their expectations increase with each game.

While some Freshmen can go under the radar for a few games until they are properly scouted, once they demonstrate that they are a threat, the intensity ramps up, and only the Top Freshman handle this pressure and continue to be a dominant force on the field.

Taylor Moreno - UNC goalie takes yellow lacrosse ball back with oversized lacrosse stick to clear ball from goal taking a huge step with blue Nike knee brace on left lag and navy Tar Heels helmet - 2019 NCAA Women's Lacrosse © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt

The Future of Women's Lacrosse

The future of women’s lacrosse is tremendous with the game growing every day and top players coming from all over the country.  With the new shot clock, the game is as fast as ever and top athletes are essential for any successful program.  Coaches are no longer just relying on the traditional hot beds for lacrosse (Baltimore, Long Island…) – top players like Charlotte North from Texas are coming from all over the country.

Top Freshmen in 2019 who are already making their mark in the women’s game include several players from Syracuse: Meaghan TyrrellMegan Carney and Sarah Cooper (Defense). Taylyn Standler UPenn (Attack), Izzy Scane Northwestern (Attack) and Tayler Warehine UNC (Midfield). Follow the top women’s lacrosse teams on the Road to the Final Four and a 2019 National Championship.

Molly Dougherty (JMU Goalie #33) and Emma Johnson (JMU 31) celebrate by hugging after winning 2018 NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship - Molly wearing a helmet and carrying oversized goalie stick and blue water bottle © Equity IX - SportsOgram - Leigh Ernst Friestedt
#33 Molly Dougherty (JMU) - 2018 National Champions

Article and Photos by Leigh Ernst Friestedt

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