Michigan Fall Preview with Coach Ulehla

Sept. 27, 2013

The University of Michigan's first women's lacrosse team arrived on campus nearly one month ago (Aug. 28) and has spent the past 10 days practicing as a team. Head coach Jennifer Ulehla, who spent the 721 days prior to Aug. 28, working diligently in her office and on the recruiting trail without a team, now has 28 talented and energetic players ready to be molded into a championship-level team.

In addition to getting acclimated to the many demands of being a college student, the 28 freshmen that make up the team's roster are also adjusting to being collegiate student-athletes. When the Wolverines take the field on Sunday (Sept. 29) at Loyola University for their first fall ball games, they will have just 11 full team practices under their belt. Michigan will face Loyola at 10 a.m., directly followed by a matchup with Johns Hopkins at 11:20 a.m.

MGoBlue.com caught up with coach Ulehla after a recent film session to discuss the team's progress since arriving on campus and her expectations for Team One's fall ball season.

On how practice is going so far ...
"We're a week and a half into practice now and we're really making great progress. What I've said to the team is, each and every day we want to come in and work at 100 percent. We need them to compete at a level that is greater than what they're used to in order to prepare them for the games that we'll be playing this fall. Each and every day we're learning and getting better. Our staff has been pleased with their attentiveness, their willingness to learn, their comradery and their work ethic. It's always a challenge when you have 28 freshmen, to help them understand how hard they have to work to compete at this level. This weekend is going to be a great opportunity for them to get a feel for what it takes, not only to play at the top Division I level, but also how they need to compete in practice each and every day to get better."

On the players adjusting to life as collegiate student-athletes ...
"Being part of Team One and establishing a program from the very beginning is challenging -- it's incredibly exciting -- but it's also very challenging. These young women have embraced this challenge and presented themselves in an incredibly mature manner. They are showing great character and have represented the University of Michigan and our women's lacrosse program in a way that we're proud of. They've done a great job dealing with the pressures of being a team of 28 freshmen, coming to college, being away from home, and having to adjust to new professors and an academically strenuous schedule, as well as the strength and conditioning aspect of our program, which is at a completely different level than in high school. They are getting to know our support staff and learning to take advantage of all the wonderful resources we have here at Michigan. We've had some great feedback from professors and all the other individuals that touch this program and we couldn't be prouder. Like any program, there are times where mistakes are going to be made, but what I really love about this group is that they're willing to admit to those mistakes and learn from them. That's how we're going to get better each day on the field and it's how we're going to get better off the field. It's a process and we're excited to continue to see them grow each and every day."

On the team getting its first game experience against quality competition ...
"Being able to play two nationally ranked teams -- Johns Hopkins and Loyola -- is going to be a great opportunity for us to learn and see what we have been able to accomplish over the last two weeks. With all freshmen, we're certainly going to take our bumps and bruises, but we're going into it making sure that our focus is on our effort. We just want to get out there and compete and get an idea of where we are and what we need to work on from here. It's a scrimmage, it's not our first game, but it feels as if it's been forever since I've actually coached a game. I'm really looking forward to having my staff out on the sidelines with me and coaching these young women who have been working so hard. For us, it's going to be a day to remember. We'll learn a tremendous amount and it will give us a bench mark we can use going forward. It will be an exciting day."

On her expectations for the team this fall ...
"Going into the fall, our staff's expectations are twofold -- 1. to begin to build the championship culture that we want here at the University of Michigan for the women's lacrosse program; and 2. to develop, individually and as a team, the skills that we need to compete at a top Division I level. We want to help each individual recognize their strengths and their weaknesses as a lacrosse player and how they can continue to grow and contribute to our team's success. In addition to that, one of our main focuses since they arrived on campus has been for our players to get faster and stronger. Our conditioning and lifting, along with game experience in the fall, will help prepare them to compete at a high level in the spring."

On going back to Baltimore, which is her hometown and home for many U-M players ...
"This couldn't come at a better time. The team has been here for several weeks now and being able to spend some quality time with their parents, family and friends will serve them well at this point. For me, being able to go back to my hometown of Baltimore for our first scrimmage, representing the University of Michigan, is incredibly special and something I'm extremely proud of."

On competing in the first fall game on her birthday ...
"After the game, we're going to this great tailgate that our parents are putting together for our first scrimmage. We'll be back in Maryland, and it's my birthday, and if you've ever read any of our '101 Ways to Get to Know Women's Lacrosse', you'll know that on my birthday my favorite cake is not birthday cake -- it's CRAB cake! I'm really hoping that all the parents out there are reading this and will remember that I love crab cake. I don't need 45 candles in the crab cake though, one will do. I would be okay with them singing happy birthday to me with a crab cake (laughing)."

• Home Tournament Highlights Wolverines' Inaugural Fall Schedule

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