RICHMOND, Va. – VCU women's lacrosse gave their fans something to cheer about on Sunday with a 21-9 Valentine's Day victory over Gardner-Webb. Playing in the first game in their program's history and for most, their collegiate careers, the Black & Gold opened the season with a major statement in front of a crowd of nearly 800 Rowdy Rams who stood through the winds of winter to show their love for the fresh program.
"It was awesome seeing the whole community come together, both the school and the city of Richmond, to support our team. There were so many people here today who wanted to come out to see what lacrosse was and I think we gave them a good showing", said Molly Barcikowski following the win.
It did not take the freshman long to leave her mark at VCU. Just under seven minutes into the contest, Barcikowski set the tone early, scoring the first goal in program history to give her team an early 1-0 lead over the Bulldogs. "Personally, having the first goal ever in VCU Lacrosse history is pretty awesome! I'm excited that I got to do it with this team and I'm looking forward to making more of those memories."
Moments later, the freshman added her second score and twelve minutes into the game had already collected the first hat-trick of her collegiate career. Barcikowksi finished the game with five goals, crediting her coaches and teammates preparation as well as their determination as key factors behind the victory, "Coming into our first game we were all really excited. We were well prepared. We put in the work. Waking up today, it felt like today is the day and we knew what we had to do." She would addi, "Going out onto the field, I think we were all ready and it showed at the end of the game. I think we met our expectations. Going into the next week of practice, we're just going to take this game as a learning experience and keep moving forward."
The Rams offense dictated the game early, controlling possession for most of the first half and building a 12-4 halftime lead. Along with Barcikowksi, fellow freshman Mackenzie Galli and Blaire Langeler scored hat-tricks of their own, each notching the first three scores of their careers. Clare Murphy and Megan Williamson nearly joined in on the party, scoring two goals a piece. Overall, 11 Rams found the back of the net in what was truly a team victory.
"I am so proud of our girls", said head coach Jen O'Brien. "We've said it from the beginning they've put in so much work. They've waited so long to play a game. I'm just so happy for them to finally be able to play and enjoy this game with all of the support that they have."
After nearly one thousand days of anticipation, O'Brien and her staff could not have been happier with the team's performance, "It was a very exciting day, one that we looked forward to for a very long time, but I think that it is nice to have that emotion out of the way so that we can keep focusing on the task at hand, which is our game."
It was a long road that lead to this point and needless to say, the coach was very happy to get such a milestone out of the way and keep marching through the season. Typical of most coaches and athletes, O'Brien is already looking ahead, "As exciting as it was, and we enjoyed each moment, I am personally glad to have that out of the way. Now we can focus on what we know how to do, which is coach and play lacrosse."
Despite already preparing for the next challenge, the coach was able to take some time to enjoy the moment, "Definitely at the end of the game I took a really deep breath and it was 'Ok, we did it. We accomplished it and made it through the day. We were able to put in so much work that led to this point, but this is the fun part of lacrosse, playing in the games and making those memories out on the field. I'll never forget the girl's faces, their smile and eagerness. That is what I'll never forget, seeing how much they enjoyed the day and they deserve it."
Ram fans can see that joy and excitement when VCU returns home on Friday, March 4th for a showdown with Winthrop. The Black and Gold will continue their season at UMBC on Saturday. Game time against the Retrievers is set for 3 P.M.