JMU Nation is the system of parents, friends and fans who rally around the JMU Women's Lacrosse Team. JMU Nation showed up in full support of its team for the whole 2018 season and Final Four campaign.
A Simple Mindset - One Game at a Time
Rather than allow themselves to zone in on the National Championship all year, the Dukes narrowed their focus to a simpler view. One game at a time, the Dukes chipped away at the season. One draw at a time, one defensive stop at a time, one save at a time, one goal at a time the Dukes inched further down the road to Championship Weekend. This simple mindset helped the Dukes to stay focused and play well under pressure in big games.
JMU made it look easy by simplifying the game and staying focused on the moment. The Dukes played like they love the game of lacrosse - whether they were on the field or on the sidelines supporting their teammates. Higher stakes could neither phase nor break JMU. The Dukes' fighting spirit and simple mentality allowed them to embrace the moment and raise their level of play.
Coach Klaes-Bawcombe encouraged her players to let go of mistakes in the past and to instead focus on the opportunities in front of them. She encouraged them to trust themselves and their teammates to not let mistakes determine the outcome of games - to play with an "unselfish work ethic". This gave the Dukes the freedom to play fearlessly and without hesitation, to take risks, to be confident and to be flexible. While many top teams play in fear of making a mistake, the Dukes establish a network of trust and confidence to guide their team through any challenges they encounter on the field.
JMU made it look so easy to win a national championship because for the Dukes it was just another game. Credit goes to Head Coach, Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe, for instilling confidence in her players to let them play a game they love without the pressure of making a mistake, to enjoy the moment and be proud of everything they accomplished as a team, to make it the Final Four and to ultimately win a national championship.
The Underdog Mentality
JMU slammed open the doors of its 2018 season with a big win against UNC, but it would take weeks for the polls to reflect this victory. Many thought it was a fluke. Heading into the NCAA Tournament JMU was 19-1, having only lost to Maryland 12-15 at College Park. The Dukes performance earned them the #3 seed for the NCAA Tournament which many questioned as being high but the Dukes used the scoreboard to set the record straight.
The Dukes played with conviction, confidence and teamwork to earn their national title. They played with love for the game of lacrosse and without fear of making mistakes. The 2018 JMU Women's Lacrosse Team believed in itself and in the strength of its program. Led by Klaes-Bawcombe, each individual member of the team set aside her own personal doubts and fears and let herself believe in the team. Even when the rest of the lacrosse world refused to believe in JMU Lacrosse, the Dukes held on to their faith, and they came away with a National Championship Title.
First NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship for JMU
JMU's win over UNC in the Semi-Finals marked the 200th career win for Head Coach, Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe, and her 150th win at JMU
JMU beat UNC for the second time this season to advance to the Championship Game - JMU opened their season with a win against UNC
BC upset defending NCAA Champions - #1 seed Maryland for the first time in program history to advance to the Finals
JMU's Haley Warden recorded over 100 draw controls this season with 10 against UNC in the Semi-Finals
JMU's Haley Warden named NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player with 4 goals and 3 draw controls
JMU's Hannah Haven, Elena Romesberg and Kristen Gaudian each tallied hat tricks in the Championship Game
JMU was ranked #17 preseason - nobody thought they had a shot at winning a national title - except JMU
JMU defender, Corinne Schmidt, received a second yellow card early in second half and had to sit out rest of the game, which was a key turning point as JMU rallied to support its sidelined teammate
Boston College's Sam Apuzzo, Tess Chandler and Dempsey Arsenault selected to All-Tournament Team
JMU's attack came out firing in the Championship Game against Boston College with four unassisted goals in the first eleven minutes. Three players scored hat tricks in the Championship Game: Hanna Haven, Elena Romesberg and Kristen Guadian. Haley Warden scored four goals, Morgan Hardt came off the bench to score two in the early minutes of the game and Maddie McDaniel added another. Katie Kerrigan played a key role with four assists to round out the attack.
Boston College's top midfielder, Dempsey Arsenault, matched up against Warden, but even Arsenault could not stop Warden from scoring four goals in the Championship game.
Sam Apuzzo earned the prestigious Tewaaraton Award for the 2018 season as an all-around great player. Apuzzo is a multi-dimensional player who performs at the highest level at all ends of the field - attack, midfield and defense. While Apuzzo is technically an attacker, she takes the draws recording over 100 this season, rides opposing teams on defense as they try to break the ball out and will mark top midfielders on defense.
JMU's Zone Defense
The JMU defense is a zone made up of experienced players. These returning defenders have developed together the outstanding communication skills that enable them to work together as a cohesive unit. This experience also allows the Dukes to read situations quickly, anticipate plays, slide seamlessly and shut down top attackers with and without implementing a face guard.
The JMU defensive pressure forced Boston College to make 18 turnovers, many of which the Dukes were able to turn into goals at the other end. But JMU's defensive stance was not solely located on its defensive end. The Dukes' attackers did an outstanding job riding Boston College's clearing defenders and forced their own key turnovers in the midfield.
Boston College's uncharacteristic 18 turnovers gave JMU the room it needed to make up for the differential in draw controls. The Eagles' mistakes created JMU possessions, and the Dukes capitalized on the vast majority of these extra opportunities. JMU's full-field defensive pressure not only awarded the Dukes bonus possessions, but it shorted BC's momentum.
The Dukes' zone defense anticipated plays and slid seamlessly to disrupt the Boston College attack, coming up with huge stops at key moments of a game. Where many zones fail is in covering cutters inside the 8m, but the Dukes' communication and experience closed the gaps the BC attackers were looking for on the inside. With most of their cutting and dodging looks taken away, the Eagles found themselves forcing shots from tough angles as the possession clock wound down, many of which were easy saves for JMU's goalie, Molly Dougherty (#33).
JMU was led by an outstanding Senior class: Kristen Gaudian, Corinne Schmidt, Katie Kerrigan, Rebecca Tooker, Haley Warden and Elena Romesburg. The six worked hard over the course of their careers at JMU to lead their team to a national title. Their experience and leadership both on and off the field was key to the Dukes' success.
These seniors made sure that the slogans "We Are JMU" and "50 Strong" were not solely applied to playing lacrosse. They knew that a team without trust and respect off the field cannot be successful on the field. They urged their teammates to break down the social hierarchy that many other teams structure themselves in. Rather, these seniors created a system where all teammates were encouraged to be themselves, together--one small part of 50 strong.
From the very beginning of the season, the very beginning of the year, this senior class's goal was to win the national championship. They played in the moment--without getting caught looking forward and without getting stuck in the past--and expected their younger teammates to do the same. They knew what it would take to accomplish their goal, and they did it.
Celebrating a National Championship
For 50 years, the JMU Women's Lacrosse Program built the foundation for the team that would ultimately win the program's first national championship. The school found the right coaches, built the right facilities and provided the student-athletes with the resources they needed to succeed. Coaches recruited the right student-athletes, created an environment where the players could excel and taught them to value hard work and what it means to be a team. Backed by these 50 years, the JMU Women's Lacrosse Teammates of 2018 banded together and did what no one else thought they could do--they won themselves and their program their first national championship.