Williams is back in a big way, and captain Lauren Lynch describes their journey to Nationals.
May 16, 2023 by Fiona "Scotti" Nugent in Profile with 0 comments
Our coverage of the 2023 college Series is presented by Spin Ultimate. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Spin Ultimate!
I sat down with Lauren Lynch, Williams Nova captain and Donovan nominee, to discuss Williams’ first trip to Nationals since 2019. Since then, the team has rebranded from La WUFA to Nova, and has rebuilt their entire roster to bring their storied program back to the big dance.
Scotti: Congratulations on clinching New England’s fourth bid to Nationals! What does this mean to you as a captain, and your team as a whole?
Lauren: Thank you so much! It really feels like we earned this bid, after numerous roadblocks in our way the past couple years. We definitely came into this season with a bit of a chip on our shoulders, wanting to avenge the shortcomings of previous years. The feeling of winning the game to go against Bates can only be described as pure bliss; we never took our team or our competition for granted, and really had to earn every point at Regionals. After positive covid tests barring us from competing on Sunday of Regionals 2022 – a tournament we were hosting and now couldn’t play in – getting to actually match up against the top teams in our region has been bittersweet.
Last year, we watched Middlebury and Wellesley play in the final and had a hard time not feeling frustrated, because we hadn’t lost to Wellesley that year! We didn’t even get the opportunity to see how we matched up! This year, we played them at No Sleep Till Brooklyn where they won on universe point, but I think that really shows that Nova can compete.
S: What do you think was different about this year? What changes did you make to help push the program in a positive direction?
L: This year has honestly been an uphill battle. Our team has been riddled with injuries, myself and my co-captain Coco Rhum included. While this has been a challenge for our starting and universe lines, it’s really opened up the floor for underclassmen to step up. They’ve been getting a lot of [tournament] reps, and taken accountability on the field to really fill out the roster and grow into becoming key players on any line. As you saw at No Sleep Till Brooklyn, someone different scored almost every point. I think that really speaks to the depth of our roster and the trust that we have in one another.
I’d say that the theme for this year has really been trust and mental toughness. Not only have we been needing to rely heavily on rookies, but we’ve had to work really hard on not letting ourselves get down when the score isn’t going our way or when there are little mistakes made on the field.
S: Trust is definitely a major component of any team. What do you think you did differently this year to foster that environment?
L: After our game against Mount Holyoke at Regionals, the team was definitely feeling down. They’d just beaten us 13-8 and we’d really struggled against their defensive set. I gave a speech to the entire team that I feel really encapsulated the message of trust that has been leadership’s goal for the entire year. The core idea is that trust in one another means nothing if it doesn’t remain through a challenge. And we were certainly challenged by Mount Holyoke! They’re a really good team, and their defense got in our heads. As a team, we need to build each other up and not get frustrated with one another, because again, trust means nothing if it breaks down.
This whole idea started at the beginning of the year, when a number of upperclassmen came back from playing club over the summer. The level of play at club is much higher than D-III, as the baseline ability and expectations are much higher. Having to step back down to teaching rookies basic skills definitely built up some frustration among the team; not only from the players who had become accustomed to club level of play, but from the rookies feeling a hierarchy that they were at the bottom of. We handled this by implementing a conscious switch: as a team, we would stop unpacking the minutiae of the previous point on the line. Talking about the past wasn’t going to inspire future change, instead it would work in the opposite direction. It caused blaming, finger pointing, and further eroded our trust in each other.
Our goal going into Brooklyn, our first tournament of the spring season, was to choose key points to focus on during halftime or timeouts, and implement visualization into our pre-tournament rituals. What does it look like to play offensively as a unit? How do we set the tone of the team performing well, and not just individuals? I think it really showed in our performance at Brooklyn, and as for Nationals, our trip and success will be as a team, not just key players.
S: Wow! That’s a really inspiring approach to teamwork. What are your goals at Nationals, now that it’s around the corner?
L: We win as a team, and we lose as a team. We brought Middlebury to their closest game all day at Regionals, and we feel optimistic about how we’ll do place-wise. But honestly, the place we finish in isn’t our main goal. We want to bask in our last chances to play with each other, we worked really hard to make this iteration of the team what it is, and we’re really glad to have one more weekend to play together. The real goal is to leave feeling good in what we did, and see what place comes with it.
Before Nationals we have an annual alumni event, so we will get to celebrate with all the people who taught us how to play. Even more exciting, WUFO made Nationals as well – so the entire Williams College Ultimate program is going, and the two teams are very close so we’re so excited to share the experience together. This whole program is a family, and we’re just looking to have that dawg in Ohio!1
We confirmed with the team that this an allusion to this Ultiworld piece. ↩