It’s only halfway through, but Merrimack senior Carly McKenna has never had a season like this with the Warriors.
The Merrimack women’s lacrosse team is 8-3 through 11 games. That’s a good record; the Warriors sit fourth in the Northeast 10 standings.
But considering where the program was just one year ago, this is a story of a team rising from the ashes.
Ed. Note — This story will appear in Monday’s edition of The Eagle Tribune
Merrimack’s eight wins this season match the win total from the last two years combined (8-26). The Warriors are on pace to post their first winning season since 2011.
McKenna says that the biggest difference this season is consistency, especially at the top of the program, where head coach Julie Duffy has returned for her second season.
Until her junior year, McKenna had three head coaches in the years, and the Warriors had posted a record of 9-42.
Michael Daly was at the helm for two seasons (2014, 2015) and Paula Habel ran the program in 2016.
Prior to that, the Warriors had a run of success with Corinne Baker as head coach; she was there for five seasons.
“This is the best the program has felt since I’ve been here,” McKenna said. “Everything has been more consistent. When I found out that Coach Duffy signed a five-year contract, I was so happy.
“There was so much turnover before that it was hard to get settled in. Our whole team was always adjusting and always adapting to a new coach and a new way to play. Having consistency now has helped a lot.”
The Warriors are now nationally ranked — No. 14 in Division II — and have their most wins since 2011; the season isn’t even over yet.
With 19 goals scored on Friday in a win over Queens, the Warriors have recorded double-digit goal totals in each of their first 11 games. That’s the first time the team has done that since 2010, when they when hit double-digit goals in each of their first 14 games.
Amber Feminella is second in the NE10 in goals (44) and Ally DaCosta is second in the league in assists (34). In those two players, Merrimack boasts two of the league’s top-15 scorers.
“(Coach Duffy’s) whole staff just makes it easier for us to focus on and off the field,” McKenna said. “Off the field stuff is very important. It’s made our whole experience better. I think we’re working out better off the field, our conditioning is better, but we’re also focusing on academics and the whole experience we’ve had as student-athletes is better.
“It feels like the whole college is growing while I’ve been here, and our program is finally heading in that direction as well.”
The Warriors now play at the new Merrimack Stadium, along with the men’s team. The new turf makes the game a bit faster, and playing in a new facility has helped the Warriors embrace the mentality of a growing program.
“The new stadium is incredible,” McKenna said. “There are some new rules as well in the women’s game that are making it faster. It’s good to see the game growing. That’s big.
“Then for us, having the consistency to grow our program at the same time is huge. We’ve grown as a team this year. We’re not hitting the restart anymore.”
No matter what happens the rest of the way, McKenna and the rest of the Merrimack senior class knows for sure that they’ll leave the program better than they found it.
In McKenna’s first three years on campus, the Warriors won just 11 games combined. The team is already up to eight this season, with six games still on the schedule before playoffs.
“That’s the best part,” she said. “Knowing that we’ll graduate and leave the program with a bright future is the best feeling. That’s really important to us. The best days for Merrimack women’s lacrosse are ahead, whether it’s this year and in future years.”
Merrimack hosts Saint Anselm on Wednesday night (7 p.m.).