After an 11-7 loss in the 2017 United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX) semifinals, the revamped Baltimore Ride are valuing something more than star power heading into the first game of their third season Friday — chemistry between old and new.
“We went into building this team a little like the Las Vegas franchise did in the NHL,” new head coach John Sung said, referencing the expansion Golden Knights, who reached the Stanley Cup Final in their first season. “And obviously it worked well for them.”
The Ride have not reached the championship game since the league’s inaugural 2016 season, but to Sung, the first two seasons were learning curves on the road to becoming another team for Charm City to be proud of.
“I do think that we’re now at a much better place from the standpoint where I can bring the players I want to fit our style of play and bring the Ride a championship,” Sung said.
After piloting Virginia Tech to its first appearance in the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse tournament this past season, Sung is sprinkling some of his Hokies’ success into the mix of vets and young graduates.
Former Virginia Tech star attacker Kristine Loscalzo, a 2017 graduate, played for Sung in his first season with the Hokies, scoring 52 goals before signing with the Ride this season alongside former Virginia Tech teammate Meghan Macera.
“The way we assembled this team was to get a couple more veteran players,” Sung said. “Play fast from an attacking standpoint, making sure that we don’t have a lot of open sets, trying to get a lot of shots off. Defensively, trying to create a little chaos.”
He’ll rely on veteran defender Brittany Poist (Maryland) to guard the goal circle, as well as sound goalkeeping from Rachel Vallarelli, an assistant for Villanova who set a UMass record for most wins (48).
Ontario native Awehiyo Thomas, who Sung was able to sign after coaching her on the Haudenosaunee national women's lacrosse team in the World Cup, will assist the Ride offensively.
The squad is also littered with homegrown talent, including Bel Air natives Faye Brust (attack) and Sam Maguire (midfield), Molly Cobb of Towson (midfield) and Johns Hopkins graduate Claudia Flister of Catonsville (midfield). The Ride also have former standouts from local colleges in attacker Molly Hulseman (Loyola Maryland), goalie Kerry Stoothoff (Loyola Maryland) and midfielder Michaela Duranti (Towson University).
Returning to the team are Duke standout defender Taylor Virden of Ellicott City and midfielder Erica Bodt, a Forest Hills resident who was on the Tewaaraton Award watch list in her final season at Syracuse.
This season’s setup veers from its second year. Rather than 10 games, Baltimore, the Boston Storm, Philadelphia Force and Long Island Sound will play four regular-season games and two playoff games.
The third season will also mark the first sponsored by 3d Lacrosse, who join STX and Nike as the UWLX’s backers.
“We’re in a pretty good place. The sustainability will be there for a long time coming,” Sung said.
But it’s not the only pro league in town. The five-team Women’s Professional Lacrosse League debuted June 2, with the Baltimore Brave, led by Towson University coach Sonia LaMonica, defeating the Philadelphia Fire, 20-12, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The Ride’s first game of the season will be Friday at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Live.Love.Lax tournament in Bel Air, the team’s first of three appearances in its home state.
“Our games are free,” Sung said. “Why wouldn’t you come out and see the best players play?”
Baltimore Ride schedule
June 15: vs. Philadelphia Force, 6:30 p.m., Live.Love.Lax. at Cedar Lane Regional Park, Bel Air
July 7: vs. Boston Storm, 5:30 p.m., at Top Flight, Basking Ridge, N.J.
July 11: vs. Long Island Sound, 6 p.m., STX Rising Showcase at Blandair Park, Columbia
July 18: vs. Boston Storm, 6:30 p.m., UWLX Summer Draw at Cedar Lane Regional Park, Bel Air
July 30: Semifinal (No. 1 seed vs. No. 4 seed), 4 p.m.; semifinal (No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed), 5:45 p.m.; at Lake Placid Summit Classic, Lake Placid, N.Y.
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August 4: Championship, 7:30 p.m. (following Major League Lacrosse’s Boston Cannons game at 5 p.m.) at Harvard Stadium, Boston