COLLEGE LACROSSE: Ritter No Stranger To NCAA Tournaments
The Misericorida women’s lacrosse team is in the midst of a historic season.
The Cougars won their first MAC Freedom championship and are set to play in the NCAA Division III Tournament today.
While the big stage of the NCAA Tournament will be a new experience for most of the Cougars, senior midfielder Kristen Ritter is playing in an NCAA Tournament for the second time in six months.
Ritter was a four-year soccer player at Misericordia and a key member of the team’s run to the NCAA Elite Eight last fall.
Ritter feels she can bring valuable experience when it comes to helping the lacrosse team prepare mentally for the challenge of the national chapionship tournament.
“I think because I’ve been in this situation before, I can help the other girls more with the mental state,” Ritter said. “The season does get long once you get into the tournament. So just preparing everyone, getting the team together and mentally preparing to have this be a long season, because we’re not done yet.”
Ritter said it wasn’t a grand plan to become a two-time champion during her senior year at Misericorida. Everything simply fell into place.
“I didn’t even know I was going to join this team in the fall and to get this win and be a MAC champion again, it’s a great feeling,” she said after last Saturday’s MAC Freedom win over DeSales.
This season was Ritter’s first with the lacrosse team. Coming to Misericordia as a soccer player, she was unable to play while her committments were with the soccer team.
But with her four years up, she wanted to take one final opportunity to join the team.
“I wasn’t able to play (lacrosse) before because of soccer,” she said. “But I played in high school and just thought it was a great team. I knew a couple of the girls. They had good chemistry and I just like playing the sport.”
Mat Faas is a first-year coach for the Misericordia women’s lacrosse team. Before Ritter ever expressed interest in joining the team, he was impressed by her abilities as a soccer player.
“I had the opportunity to watch her in the fall play soccer and I was supremely impressed with her leadership, her atheticism and her general skill in soccer,” Faas said. “She led them to a great season this year and the past three years.
“It was right toward the end of soccer season she approached me and said she thought she might be interest in playing lacrosse and wasn’t sure how that would work and if we’d be open to it. I played it cool and said ‘Yeah, we’d be open to that,’ and inside I was super excited.”
Ritter said it took some time to get used to playing lacrosse again, but with the help of her coach, she’s become a key piece of the team’s championship puzzle.
“It definitely took some time,” she said. “My coach, he’s very patient and welcoming. He was patient with me not knowing what was going on at first. But we got here — thanks to him.”
Faas said it was simply a matter of getting Ritter comfortable with the game once again.
“It was really getting her out there with her stick going again,” he said. “We had some conversations before the season just to get a gauge of where she’d be. I asked her where she saw herself fitting in and she said on defense. She played defense in soccer. I said OK, but I knew we’d be pushing her up into the midfield. It was really just her getting back in the swing of it. Once she got comfortable with her stick and running plays and playing both sides of the ball you can see her progress. Each game, she got more confident and we were able to put her in more positions where she’d have more of an impact on the game.
From not even thinking she would be a part of the team a few months ago, Ritter has steadily grown into a valuable asset.
It was her goal against DeSales in the final minutes that broke a tie game and proved to be the game-winner, the championship-winner.
The Cougars (14-5) play Endicott (14-5) today at 1 p.m. at York College. A win would set up a match for Misericordia against the hosts on Sunday.
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