For the first three years of its existence, the Fresno State women’s lacrosse team did not win a single game.
Head coach Jessica Giglio joined the team in 2011 and led the program to its first ever victory. Now in her sixth year, Giglio has led the Bulldogs to a 7-3 record as of press time this season, and the team not only broke last season’s record of five wins, but is on pace for the first winning season in program history.
“It takes time to build a program, and our girls have really invested a lot of time and effort into this year,” Giglio said. “We’re still a relatively young playing team, but we’re growing each day with experience.”
The Bulldogs compete in the nine-school Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, which is full of tough teams, such as nationally ranked University of Colorado and USC.
To continue this season’s success, Giglio said that the team needs to keep its consistent effort and keep overcoming adversity, which is something she has stressed all season. Also, she said everyone needs to stay “all in,” which is one of their mottos for the season.
Giglio said that having a consistent strength coach this year is one of the major differences compared to past years. The strength training has made the team faster and stronger. She also credits the freshman class for making an immediate impact in moving the program in the right direction.
Giglio said Caroline Dineen-Carlson, from Coronado, and Kyleigh Westgarth, from Carlsbad, are two of the standout seniors who are enjoying this winning season after enduring three tough seasons in which the team went 11-34.
“It definitely feels awesome to have six wins,” Dineen-Carlson said. “When I came here my freshman year, the most wins we had in a season was two.”
The team is playing with much intensity and heart this year, Dineen-Carlson said, and the players are determined to get better and keep winning.
Dineen-Carlson said that the team consistently improves year after year, but this season’s growth is dramatic, and some of that growth is due to the underclassmen that are stepping up.
One of those underclassmen is freshman Tiffiny Wallace, from Sandy, Utah, who is leading the team with 24 goals.
Wallace said that getting that sixth win was awesome, and it shows how much the players have grown together as a team.
“It’s definitely rewarding,” Wallace said. “Obviously coming in as a freshman you don’t expect to be playing at all really, so it’s such an awesome time being able to be on the field.”
With Wallace and Dineen-Carlson continuing to play at a high level, the Bulldogs have a good chance at achieving their goals of a winning season and making the conference playoffs.
Giglio credited Fresno State athletic director Jim Bartko and Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro for pushing for academics and athletics to rise together. Lacrosse has a 3.48 team GPA, and the team is enjoying its best season ever, both of which are the results of hard work in Giglio’s six years in charge.
“I took over the program, and it was 0-44, so it doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s something that has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to have happen,” Giglio said. “I see the community starting to back us up more, which makes a big difference when the Red Wave comes out and shows up and wants to be there, because our girls play fantastic when they’ve got support behind them.”
Giglio is from Long Island, New York, and graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 2006, where she played goalie for the lacrosse team for four years. From 2006 to 2007, she played and coached for some lacrosse clubs in England, and in 2008 she became the head coach at Oneonta State, which was her last stop before becoming a Bulldog.
Giglio said she has grown as a coach in her six years at Fresno State, and even though she is used to winning, she learned to respond to the losses and apply the lessons to the next game to move forward.
“I knew what I was coming into,” Giglio said. “I knew it was going to be a task that I would have to put a lot of time and energy into. When I came on the campus, I fell in love with this school, and I wouldn’t have taken this job if I didn’t think that we could win and have a really successful lacrosse program here.”
Although the Bulldogs are gaining momentum this year, Clovis Unified School District still does not have any lacrosse teams. Giglio bought a house in the Clovis area and hopes that one day when she has kids, they will be able to play lacrosse in school.
“I think that overall, Fresno State can be a wonderful place for lacrosse to really flourish,” Giglio said. “I hope people get excited and want to come out and support this team of 29 female athletes that are working hard to put a great product out there for people to see it.”
Two home games remain in the Fresno State Women’s Lacrosse schedule. Come out to the soccer and lacrosse field on campus to support the Bulldogs.
5 p.m. Saturday, April 8 vs. UC Davis
6 p.m. Friday, April 21 vs. Cal