The women’s lacrosse team has felt increased tension between its players and coaches this season, which has negatively affected the playing environment. Six players have quit since the summer. One player quit this summer, two quit in the fall and three have quit this season. Two players also quit during the fall 2013 semester. The players have cited personal disagreements with the coaching staff, a negative atmosphere and extreme time demands, among other reasons, as the primary causes for quitting. Head Coach Cindy Wilson is now in her third season and only has one player who has been on the team longer than she has.
Emily Towey, a first-team all-conference goalie last season, is the most decorated player to quit. Towey quit in mid-February during the team’s trip to play two games in California. She finished second in save percentage and fifth in goals against average last season in the Landmark Conference and her career mark of 9.13 saves per game is fourth-most in Scranton history.
Towey said on the first day of the California trip, three women on the team cried because of the stressful team situation.
“The only reason I quit was the coaching staff,” Towey said. “For the past three years, I felt like I was a part of a family, and this year I felt like the coaching staff completely changed everything that Scranton lacrosse has ever been.”
This year’s team is missing assistant coach Katie Slade and seven seniors. Slade graduated from The University in 2011 and is a four-time all-conference player. She served as assistant coach for three years and players said they could turn to her for an opinion other than Wilson’s. Current and former players said the team atmosphere changed for the worse this year because Wilson has more unopposed control of the team.
Towey said she was planning on quitting after getting back from the trip, but she reached a breaking point and felt her mental health was more important and quit during the trip.
“I’ve never quit anything before. Lacrosse has been my life since third grade. Everyone waits for their senior year … and it got to the point where I really couldn’t do it,” Towey said. “Being a senior I was trying to be that person for all of the underclassmen who were struggling and were pretty much burning out, and it was honestly taking a toll on me as well.”
The team had a meeting in California to discuss its situation. Towey said several players stood up to speak for themselves and for the team, but the coaching staff fought them on each point.
“One time I said, ‘I feel like we’re not an entire team because it’s the team against the coaches and we feel that way. We know that’s not your intention, but that’s how we feel,’” Towey said. “And she (Wilson) immediately came back and yelled, with such a nasty tone and said, ‘Well, why do you feel that way, you’re not allowed to feel that way, we don’t make you feel that way.’”
A current team member, who chose to remain anonymous for fear that coming forward may affect her standing on the team, said many players believe Wilson made Towey feel like she had to leave because she had too much influence over the team. She said she is considering leaving the team, and she expects more players to quit soon.
“She throws around the word ‘negative’ so much and says that the whole team is negative. If anyone on the team is negative it’s her,” she said. “She thinks there’s tension on the team. We’re like, ‘There’s no tension between us, there’s tension between the coaching staff and the team.’”
The player said there is only one way to make the team atmosphere positive.
“A new coach,” she said. “A new head coach.”
Junior Juliana Perello walked on to the team as a sophomore but was cut this spring.
She said originally the explanation she was given for being cut was reduced funding, but when she challenged that point, the reason became her skill level. Perello said she and her father spoke with an administrator who told them that there were no problems with the women’s lacrosse team’s budget. Perello said she tried to get back on the team when another player quit but was denied.
“There just really isn’t any communication. For example, the whole team wasn’t made aware of the cuts until people were cut from the team,” Perello said. “Once people were cut, apparently practice went on as normal like these players weren’t ever part of the team. She (Wilson) didn’t say anything to the team… she just didn’t mention it.”
Perello said the relationships between team members are fine, but she feels bad for players who are still on the team because of the atmosphere the coaches have created.
“You would expect a coach to be someone, they’re not a professor and they’re also like an authoritative figure, so they should be someone you can be open with about your problems and have a relationship with and I just feel like that’s not really there,” she said. “It kind of stinks for people who come here to play a sport and then they’re just miserable playing it.”
A former player, who chose to remain anonymous because she is still dealing with problems with the way she was treated, also said Wilson does not address the absence of players after they quit or are cut.
“People are quitting and it’s not said ever again, it’s just brushed aside like they’re no one. I came here just for lacrosse and it’s completely changed,” she said. “I mean I love The University now without it, but it’s completely changed me as a student-athlete. Now I’m no longer an athlete.”
Another former player, who chose to remain anonymous because she did not want her name attached to information that may further disturb the team, said she felt burdened by playing lacrosse and was no longer having fun.
“I felt as I woke up in the morning I wouldn’t worry about anything but lacrosse, like the whole day. Lacrosse was like the burden on me. I wouldn’t even worry about school as much as lacrosse.”
This former player also thinks more players will quit and is unsure of the future state of the team.
“I feel like people are more saying they’re just trying to get through the season, like they’re not actually going to enjoy themselves they’re just trying to get through it so they don’t have to play next season or see what next season brings them,” she said. “I want to see what happens next year. I’m really curious.”
Another current player chose to remain anonymous because she does not want to affect her playing time or personal relationships on the team. She said there is “a lot of coach-caused drama on the team.”
“We have silent bus rides if we don’t win a game or she doesn’t think we played well… We have to drive two hours to a game and no one can talk, no one can call their parents on the way home,” she said. “We had a silent bus ride to the game once and we came out flat… I don’t expect anyone on the team to be positive and pumped up for the game on the field if you cannot talk on the bus at all.”
She said the only day the team does not have anything to do with lacrosse is Sunday, but everyone must go to bed early because they have team lifting at 5:30 a.m. Monday. She could deal with the incredible time commitment, however, if playing lacrosse was still fun.
“A coach’s job is not to be your best friend and I feel like everyone understands that, but I feel like it is their job to support you in many ways,” she said. “You want to go to practice and you want to have a little bit of fun because we’re DIII and it’s supposed to be a fun time, but it’s not driven on fun… There’s intimidation.”
This current member of the team is also considering quitting and said the atmosphere needs to change for her to stay.
“If the coach can’t realize and be flexible that she needs to change, we just need a new coach,” she said.
Senior Sheila Mulligan quit this summer. She said the main reason she quit was because she was not getting playing time and wanted to play. Mulligan said there was eager and open communication between her and the coaching staff when she was on the team. However, she said she has heard that the atmosphere on the team has changed this season.
“She’s a great person (Head Coach Wilson) and so was the assistant (Coach Slade) at the time… We’ve maintained a pretty positive relationship, but I know a lot of other people haven’t,” Mulligan said. “I will say that. I won’t bash her in any way.”
First-year former player Christina Pallitto said she quit the team a week or two into the spring season. She did not mention the coaching staff or a negative atmosphere as reasons for her departure. Her reasons for leaving included not being as “into it” as other players on the team and a major time commitment.
“It was a lot more of a commitment than I thought. I thought it was going to be a little bit less because like DIII and everything,” Pallitto said. “I’ve heard some things about the coaches that went wrong, but me personally, I can’t say that it was entirely their fault at all.”
Former Assistant Coach Slade, in whom many of the players confided, did not return a phone call request for an interview. Attempts to contact Athletic Director Toby Lovecchio, Head Coach Cindy Wilson and Assistant Coach Jaclyn Calabrese were met with a response from the Scranton Athletics Department. The policy of the athletics department is to not comment on matters regarding team rosters.