An early look at women’s lacrosse

One of the most consistently successful teams on campus has begun their preseason training.


PJ Stebbings, Sports Reporter

For Hamline’s women’s lacrosse team, winning has become more than a priority. It has become an expectation. Although the lacrosse team has only been a team since 2016 it has been Hamline’s most successful athletic program as of late, having won the Midwest Conference Tournament every year since 2017. The success of the program is credited to their tenacious head coach Karen Heggernes and the culture she has built within the team. 

Heggernes, who was named head coach when the team was formed back in 2016, is a Minnesota native and has played and coached lacrosse for the majority of her life. In high school she helped to create the lacrosse program at Cretin Derham Hall and played there for four years, then played on the University of Minnesota’s club team. Before coming to Hamline, she coached at Olivet College in Michigan as well as The Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minnesota.

The years of experience that Karen Heggernes possesses has helped her formulate a winning culture that has rubbed off onto each and every one of her players. The motto of her squad is “grit and glue.” 

The “grit” is the tenacity and hunger to compete that she expects every player to bring everyday, whether in practice, lifts or in game. A key to every team’s success is the ability to battle through tough times and overcome adversity and she believes that her team has demonstrated that time and time again. 

The “glue” is the culture and camaraderie that the players themselves build together through achieving goals and working together. This philosophy has paid off well for the Pipers as they have had tremendous success on the field, making it all the way to The National NCAA tournament in 2022. 

As coach of a successful team, it is key to not allow complacency to set in. That is why Heggernes has had her team working all offseason. From 6 a.m. practices to team lifts and open gyms, the Piper lacrosse team is already working as hard as any team on campus, if not harder. 

“Expectations are high, I demand a lot out of my girls but they are tough and can handle it,” Heggernes said. “I want to see us be consistent on the field and able to adapt and respond to tough situations and I fully expect us to play in May.” 

Playing in May is a catchphrase she has coined, meaning she expects to make the NCAA tournament which occurs every May. Only 46 teams out of over 300 Division III women’s lacrosse programs make it to the NCAA tournament every year, so making it that far is an achievement in and of itself.

The goals of the head coach have certainly resonated with her players.

“We want to push each other to be better athletes and teammates but ultimately our mindset and goals are to appear in the NCAA Tournament again,” sophomore Nicole Phillips said.

Other teammates agree as they look at the season before them.

“Obviously our goal is to make the big tournament, the harder we work during the offseason, the greater the reward will be in the spring,” senior Chloe Herbst said. 

As the 2023 season approaches, with official practice starting Jan. 31, Heggernes and the Piper lacrosse team have a lot to be excited for. 

Heggernes is extremely pleased with her roster from top to bottom.

“This team represents the grit and glue that I want, our sophomore class has really stepped up from a culture standpoint and I’m excited to see that translate to the field,” Heggernes said. 

She highlighted sophomores Nicole Phillips and Avery Wilson, who have been dealing with injuries, but have stayed positive and are ready to take over on the field this spring.

 Heggerness also said to watch for her two star players, midfielder Taryn Leonard who “helps lead the team and control the game as a draw control specialist,” and goalie Justine Case who “stepped up big last year and has come into her own as a leader.”

The ambitious spirit of the Piper lacrosse team is refreshing for the Hamline community to see on campus. Hamline sports fans should be sure to keep an eye out for the women’s lacrosse team this spring as there are some extremely big goals ahead of them and they have every intention of succeeding.