In 1999, the Virginia Tech’s women’s lacrosse team won 11 games. That was the most wins in program history until Head Coach John Sung arrived on campus. The Hokies won 11 games in his first season in 2017, tying the program record. Last season he led the team to 14 wins and their first ever NCAA tournament appearance. The lacrosse program has quickly developed into one of the more promising teams at Virginia Tech in just two years.
“We’ve made some significant improvements, we’re coming off of an NCAA tournament appearance for the first time,” Sung said. “Now we’re getting to the point where the program is changing and we’re getting ourselves ready to hit the ground running.”
The Hokies open up the season as the 11th-ranked team in the nation, according to the Inside Lacrosse poll. This ranking demonstrates the continuity the team had this offseason, as seven of the top nine players in points from last year are returning. This team is very similar to the team that made the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.
“We’ve returned a bunch of players from last year’s roster,” Sung said. “We had some fifth-year players who decided to stay and continue their legacy here at Virginia Tech, and continue to help us build our program and bring us into the national spotlight.”
In many sports, making it into the NCAA Tournament isn’t always an indicator of an elite program. However, in women’s lacrosse there are only 26 bids, with 13 of them being automatic bids for conference champions. Making the tournament last season was a fantastic achievement for a program that won five games just three seasons ago.
“We used [making the tournament] as one of our benchmarks for our team, making the tournament and playing for a national championship is something we’ve been talking about since day one,” Sung said. “It gives the kids an understanding of how hard we need to work and what we need to do to get the day-to-day stuff right so we can get to the tournament.”
The Hokies won’t have an easy road back to the tournament. The team plays eight games against teams ranked in the preseason top-20, and two other games against teams who received votes in the poll. These include games against three of the top four teams in the country as well. Virginia Tech will have one of the toughest schedules in the country this year, but despite the difficulty, it will help them to build a resume.
“We have a very challenging schedule ahead, obviously,” Sung said. “We’re not catching anybody off guard, and everybody knows that we’re here now…the target is now on our backs.”
A large reason the Hokies were so successful last year was the breakout performance of freshman midfielder Paige Petty. Petty scored 58 goals, which was good for sixth in the ACC last year. This achievement led to her being named a first-team All-ACC player and a second team All-American.
“[Petty] is a very unique player, and I think for her, she really didn’t know what was going on and was flying by the seat of her pants [early last year],” Sung said. “She’s a really special player, she’s going to leave a huge impact on our team, and we’re really excited to see her growth.”
This team has a lot of young faces and some experienced veterans that make them a threat to make a deep postseason run. The Hokies may have a tough road ahead, but they will be working hard to continue their success and go further than they were able to last season.
“We have a lot of new faces that are ready to step up, and we have a lot of faces that were here last year that are ready to step up, but just needed the time to develop,” Sung said. “This group is ready to hit the ground running.”