When Claire Feeney woke up Friday morning, something just felt right. She and her Winthrop lacrosse teammates ended the day with an even better feeling.
Feeney scored the first home goal in Winthrop womens lacrosse history, part of an impressive seven-goal haul, as the Eagles handled Marquette from the first draw en route to a 17-7 win Friday night at Eagle Field.
I woke up this morning and I just felt it, Feeney said afterward. My teammates were around me and Im sure Phelps Hall didnt really appreciate our enthusiasm, but we were all pumped.
It was the programs historic first home game and Feeney was the offensive star of the show throughout, scoring most notably the opener.
It was surreal, she said, still grinning. It never happens. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I was just there at the right time.
The game was also historic for Marquette, which was playing its first-ever womens lacrosse match.
Not only were the visitors playing in their first competitive game, Golden Eagles coach Meredith Black, a former all-American at Notre Dame, was roaming the sidelines as a head coach for the first time.
It was nerve-racking, and as a first-time head coach I cant deny I was just as nervous as them, said Black, whose team has 28 freshmen. Going through the unknown that was the hard thing for them; what to expect, they had no idea.
Winthrop could relate, having only played its first two games in program history, against Howard and the Naval Academy, the weekend prior.
Its in the books, we got the W, which is what we wanted to show our fanbase, our community that weve got a great program here, said a relieved and happy Winthrop coach John Sung. Our kids play so hard. For just being freshmen, they go a hundred miles an hour, and today was a great way to kick off our home season here.
Just the experience of Winthrops two extra games wedged a huge chasm between the teams. The Eagles, who have 23 freshmen, started quickly and confidently, grabbing a 5-1 lead in the first 10 minutes and cruising the rest of the way. They out-shot the visitors 38-16 and won 17 of 26 draw controls, while Marquette committed 42 fouls to the Eagles 29.
It paid off, said Sung, who purposely scheduled his teams first two games on the road. What we learned from playing Navy and Howard, we made so many adjustments this week and for such a young team Im so proud, because you never know how many adjustments they can handle.
If Winthrop had any pregame nerves, Feeney quickly settled them. She got Winthrop on the board and scribbled her name in the record books at the same time, burying the first of several 8-meter shots the Eagles would receive in the games opening minutes. Danielle Ellis finished a nice feed to put Winthrop up 3-0 with less than three minutes elapsed and midfielder Carolyn Kraus, busily buzzing around the field all night, took a pass and wheeled behind the goal before tucking the ball past Marquette goalie Sarah Priem for a 4-0 Eagles lead.
Nicole Lankford made Marquette history with just over five minutes played. She blew past her defender on the right and powered toward goal, finishing past Winthrop goalie Camille King for the Golden Eagles first-ever goal, and a 4-1 score line. Kenzie Brown scored for Marquette to make it 6-2, but the hosts scored the final four goals of the half to take a 10-2 lead into the break. Feeney scored, and Ellis added her second off a nice feed from Shannon Gallagher. Alyssa Blevins then hit Feeney with a slick backdoor pass for Winthrops 10th goal with 42 seconds left in the opening half.
At any day, any kid can do it, Sung said about Feeneys eruption after not scoring in the first two games. Our offense isnt built for one kid. Shes just coming into her own. She could be an unbelievable lacrosse player.
The Eagles blistering first half made the second largely academic. Black could take pride in her teams mini-renaissance midway through the second frame, when they scored five straight goals to cut a 15-2 Winthrop lead to 15-7. But Feeney fired one in and Gallagher, who finished with a hat-trick, capped off the Eagles scoring to seal the win.
Afterward, Sung and his team seemed relieved that all of the celebrations and ceremonies are over. Now, they can get down to business.
Its cool to just move forward, on to the next one, said Feeney. Were gonna enjoy the pizza thats waiting for us and enjoy the parents, but starting practice tomorrow were off on what we did wrong today and what we can improve.
For Feeney and Winthrop womens lacrosse, thats a good feeling.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T