The women’s lacrosse team secured a valuable Conference victory this past Saturday against the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights. In their final regular season game, the Blue Jays picked up a 16-11 win on the road and clinched the final spot in the Big Ten Tournament. The Jays’ victory was powered by a dazzling offensive performance, led by sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Heldberg, who finished the game with a team high of six goals.
Heldberg recently spoke with The News-Letter to discuss her outstanding play, as well as the team’s outlook heading into the postseason.
The News-Letter: You were dominant throughout the game, scoring two goals in the first half and then adding another four in the second. What elements of your game fueled your exceptional individual performance?
Mackenzie Heldberg: What fueled me throughout the day was the insanely high energy that everyone on our team was putting toward this game. This was a head-to-head match for the last spot in the Big Ten Tournament, and I think everyone on our team was excited and motivated to get this win. Not to mention the girls who were setting me up — Miranda Ibello, who had eight assists, and Maggie Schneidereith with four — as well as the rest of the girls. We just played extremely unselfishly, and I owe my performance to my team. I couldn’t have done it without every single one of them.
N-L: It is always difficult to pick up victories against Conference opponents on the road, which made Saturday’s win especially impressive. What has the team been able to take away from this crucial victory?
MH: We’ve had so many close games, something around five one-goal losses to great opponents — so I think what we’ve taken away from not only this win, but every single game we’ve played thus far, is that we have the ability and talent to play with just about anyone. We’ve faced many challenges throughout this season, and we’ve responded so well each time, so this win on the road at Rutgers was a great end to the regular season for us.
N-L: You have taken on an integral role during your sophomore year and finished the regular season with 34 goals. How did you handle the transition from freshman year, and what has been the key to your breakout season?
MH: The transition from freshman year was all about my confidence and mental toughness. I learned to trust myself and lean on my teammates and know that they always have my back. I allowed myself to make mistakes and learn from them instead of dwelling on them — that’s something our coaches burn into our brains. The girls challenge me to be the best I can be, and I learn from them every day. This past summer, I worked on the little things, putting in the extra time and energy to make myself and ultimately my team better. There’s still a lot to learn and clean up on my end, but I couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement from my teammates and coaches, which was the key to my success thus far.
N-L: What is the team focusing on as it enters a huge matchup in the Big Ten Tournament against the University of Maryland Terrapins?
MH: Our team is so excited to get another chance to play an incredible Maryland team, and we’re focusing on playing a complete game and staying composed, as well as celebrating and having great energy. In most of our close games, we have lead by a few goals and then let the other team go on a run, so I think playing our game from the first whistle until the 60 minutes are up will help us get this win.
Don’t miss Heldberg and Hopkins in their Big Ten Tournament semifinal matchup against Maryland this Friday at the University of Michigan. The winner will advance to Sunday’s final and take on either the Northwestern University Wildcats or the Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions.