The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

2024 Season Preview: Vanderbilt Lacrosse

Following a disappointing 4-11 season, head coach Beth Hewitt and the Commodores are prepared to take a massive step forward.
Anseley Philippe
Vanderbilt huddles against Louisville as photographed on Feb. 27, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Anseley Phillippe)

The 2022-23 season represented a dip in the boundless progress the Vanderbilt Lacrosse team was making. Despite starting off the year with a shocking 11-10 victory over No. 25 Colorado, the rest of the campaign would be shaky, including deflating losses to teams such as Florida and James Madison. By the end of the season, Vanderbilt was 4-11 and 2-4 in the American Athletic Conference (AAC), a major step back from the season prior where the Commodores went 11-7 and reached the second round of the AAC Tournament.

Regardless of what seems like a step back for a program that was on a positive trajectory, head coach Beth Hewitt embodies her team’s eagerness to get the ball rolling on a good note this time around.

“We have a really good history here of making NCAA Tournaments and competing in the AAC for a championship,” Hewitt said to The Hustler. “I think that’s something that the team comes into the year knowing that this will be a recurring theme and what we’re shooting for.”

Before the events of last season, Hewitt was 33-20 as Vanderbilt’s head coach, which included the program’s first ever AAC title game berth in 2022 and an NCAA Tournament appearance the year prior. As Hewitt pointed out, her unit will aim to retain its prior triumphs, and with a reloaded roster stock full of returning leaders and exciting freshmen, this team has the potential to do so.

“This leadership crew is just doing it differently. They’re spending the time to make sure that some of the things that might not have gone so well for us last year are changed,” Hewitt said. “We need to make sure we’re upping the ante every year and just continuing to get better.”

Alongside seven freshmen, Vanderbilt has also brought in five transfers, highlighted by former second team All-Big East goalie Emily Gaven. Offensively, even with the departure of Bri Gross and Paige Finneran, the Commodores return attacker Nancy Halleron, who led the team in goals and points while being named to the All-AAC second team in 2023. To support Halleron, other players will find themselves with expanded roles, such as attackers Molly Finlay and Cate Bradley. Jaime Biskup, a graduate transfer who scored eight hat tricks en route to a 36-goal season, will be a massive boost to Vanderbilt’s offensive threat. Firepower will be added through the midfield, too, with players like UNC transfer Brooke Baker and returning players like Josie Ward and Kemper Robinson preparing to make a splash. 

Defensively, Vanderbilt displays an immense amount of experience. The dynamic sister tandem of seniors Ashley and Taylor Sampone have returned, with both players being among the team leaders in ground balls and caused turnovers last year. Seniors Remy Riccardi, Kristin Gruber and Maggie Arnold will also help anchor the stout veteran core on the defensive end. A potential standout is sophomore transfer Elise Bialecki, as she gathered 15 ground balls and caused 15 turnovers in just as many games for Pittsburgh in 2022. Between the poles, fifth-year senior goalie Paige Gunning is back for another season donning the Black and Gold. A team leader in ground balls last season and Vanderbilt’s all-time leader in saves, it’s expected that she will keep up her excellence in goal.

The aforementioned Finlay, who logged 11 goals and 4 assists in 9 starts, expressed excitement about the team’s blend of returning presence, compelling transfers and solid freshman additions. 

“The freshman class is so talented and they bring a lot to the table and so will our transfers. Brooke Baker is an amazing midfielder and Elise [Bialecki] will be amazing on defense,” Finlay said. “The inclusion of them on the team has brought us to a different standard of play that will help propel us to have one of our best seasons yet.”

In nonconference play, the Commodores will take on massive challenges against John Hopkins and Penn State, teams who are currently ranked No. 13 and No. 17 in the nation, respectively. Mercer and Stanford, teams who finished last season ranked 26th and 31st in RPI respectively, will also be major showings in how far this Vanderbilt team can go. On the other hand, the AAC remains as tough as ever, with conference play consisting of showdowns against current No. 3 ranked James Madison and No. 12 Florida. 

Regardless, this Vanderbilt team is fired up and ready to go. As one of the elected team captains, Taylor Sampone noted that every game will be treated like a championship game for the Commodores. 

“We’re here to battle, to compete and to win,” Sampone said.

With that in mind, the Vanderbilt Commodores will kick off their journey to return to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 12 p.m. CST against the Central Michigan Chippewas. 

“We’re a gritty team that’s going to scrap, claw and do anything it takes to win. They might not be the most beautiful or easy 8 to 10 goal victories, but somehow we find a way to pull it out,” Hewitt said. “As a total team, that’s what we have to embody every day, and we’re seeing it from a preseason perspective, but now we’ve got to see it against other people.”

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About the Contributors
David Hernandez
David Hernandez, Lead Sports Analyst
David Hernandez (‘26) is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in political science and law, history and society with a minor in communication studies. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing basketball, catching up on his favorite shows and mourning the tragedy that is New York sports. He can be reached at [email protected].
Anseley Philippe
Anseley Philippe, Staff Writer and Photographer
Anseley Philippe ('25) is a potential biomedical engineering and Spanish double-major who aspires to be an immunologist. Outside of The Hustler, he can be found queuing up at 2301, wandering around campus during his evening promenades or trying to keep up with his Spanish. He can be reached at [email protected].
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