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.

2023-24 Season Recap: Vanderbilt Lacrosse

Coming off a 4-11 season, the Commodores made drastic improvements and showcased boundless potential.
Vanderbilt Athletics
The Commodores celebrate a goal, as photographed on May 2, 2024. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Following a thrilling 14-9 victory over Cinncinati to clinch a spot in the AAC semifinals, the Vanderbilt Lacrosse team’s season ended with a 17-8 loss to No. 9 Florida, which won its fifth AAC title in a row. With the season over, now comes the time for reflection. This season for the Commodores was not a failure nor was it an overwhelming success, but it did showcase a few of the best things about this program. The blossoming of stars, the sheer effort in every game and the roster stock full of developing talent took center stage for Vanderbilt in an up-and-down season.

Before the season, head coach Beth Hewitt offered fans and reporters alike some insight into what to expect from her team. 

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 eight 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.”

In the 2022-23 season, Vanderbilt finished 4-11, going winless on the road and missing the AAC conference tournament for the first time since it joined in the 2018-19 season. This past season, however, from the first draw of the season-opener, Hewitt’s words held strong — this wasn’t the same team as a year ago. 

Vanderbilt ended the year 9-8, before ultimately falling in the AAC semifinals to the eventual champion No. 9 Florida. Five of Vanderbilt’s eight losses came against ranked opponents, a marker of their tough schedule, but that never seemed to derail the Commodores. 

This season was a marked improvement from the previous and proved that one down year wouldn’t prevent the Women’s Lacrosse program from progressing. A major part of this resurgence was the plethora of new faces stepping into key roles.

Firstly, there was the dynamic tandem of junior Kemper Robinson and graduate Brooke Baker. Robinson, who only had 12 goals and three assists last season, blossomed into a star, scoring 38 goals, dishing out eight assists and forcing 21 turnovers to be named to the All-AAC First Team. Baker, a transfer from North Carolina, scored 36 goals and added three assists. The gaps left by Nancy Halleron, Bri Gross and Paige Finneran’s departures would be filled by Molly Finlay, Ella Smith and Cate Bradley. The trio combined for 66 goals. Smith proved to be a jack-of-all-trades for Vanderbilt, leading the team with 19 assists and 52 draw controls. Finlay and Smith were both named to the All-AAC Second Team.

On the defensive side, Vanderbilt found a gem in freshman Alex Gladding, as she finished third on the team in ground balls with 28 and tied for third on caused turnovers with 17. Elise Bialecki and Maggie Arnold also developed into consistent defenders alongside her. On a less positive note, Vanderbilt will lose two program cornerstones in the Sampone twins. Taylor and Ashley were both captains this past year, and the duo combined for 58 ground balls and 30 caused turnovers throughout the season. 

In goal, Vanderbilt got outstanding quality play from two players. Graduate Paige Gunning was Hewitt’s go-to and Vanderbilt’s all-time leader in saves. She capped off a successful career by posting 106 saves through 13 games between the poles. The second goalie, senior Lexie De Roziere, had 45 saves this year in 4 games, coming in relief of Gunning. While Gunning is out of eligibility and sure to depart, De Roziere could still return to the Commodores for a final season as a graduate.

As Hewitt said in the preseason, the Commodores managed to grind out wins and often played games down to the wire. Vanderbilt went 4-3 in games decided by two goals or less. Games against teams like Butler and Kennesaw State saw the Commodores emerge victorious in nail-biters. Other times, Vanderbilt fell in heartbreakers, most notably in a loss at No. 22 Penn State, where a comeback surge sizzled out in the fourth quarter. 

Even though this Vanderbilt team will be losing plenty of seniors, this season proved there is depth on the bench ready to step up in their place. Players like sophomore Logan Risenhoover, sophomore Molly Krestinski, junior Sammy Nuchow and freshman Anna Taraboletti will surely have expanded roles next season. Returning talent for the Commodores will include the aforementioned Robinson, Finlay and Bradley. If this season was one step up for the team, and next season could prove to be a massive jump.

While the team didn’t capture an AAC championship or an NCAA Tournament berth, as it may have hoped for, Vanderbilt surged far ahead from where it stood at the end of last season. Hewitt has shown an ability to recruit quality players of both the freshman and transfer variety. The only question that truly remains is simple: just how far forward a leap can this team make next season?

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About the Contributor
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].
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