Good Sports: Bulldog lacrosse

FRESNO, Calif.

"Seeing how much potential California has for lacrosse - the athletes out here are incredible," said Fresno State women's lacrosse head coach Jessica Pausewang. "And seeing how much it's grown in the year that I've been here is remarkable."

The women's lacrosse program was started from scratch in 2008, with only 20 percent of its roster at the time having any kind of playing experience.

"We knew what we were doing and what we were accomplishing," said Senior captain Paula Badali, "and maybe it didn't look like it on the field but that was part of our growing process."

But where the Bulldogs lacked experience, they had heart, and where they lacked skill, they had the work ethic and support to improve.

"If you're having a bad practice you just have to look at someone and go, 'Ok. I know this person as my back and I have their back,'" said Badali. "You know you always have someone there for you no matter what."

The coaching staff brought in a handful of players from the east coast, where many girls start playing lacrosse in elementary school.

"I knew this was a program that was trying to build itself to the best of its ability," said New Jersey native Briana Hetherington. "I wanted to take part in that and do as much as I could for it."

And now in its fifth season, the Bulldog lacrosse team is looking to make a splash in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

"One of our main goals - and it's always been our goal - is to go to the conference tournament," said Badali. "And we really want to make an impact and get our names out there."

"They know what's expected now," said Coach Pausewang. "It's not 'Oh my gosh we won.' It's 'Yeah. We won. Of course.' I think once you start learning how to win I think the wins are easier in that sense."

That's a long way to come for a program that didn't win a game in its first three seasons. But these Bulldogs are quick to say that was the past, and new traditions are ready to be made.

"We kind of all had to go through that hardship," said Badali. "Last year getting that first win and then getting three wins it just kind of made it that much sweeter."

"We have so much team unity and respect for one another," said Hetherington. "And you don't just do it for yourself. You do it for your team as well. So that's where I think this program is going to build into amazing things."

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