The women’s lacrosse team will kick off the season at home Saturday against Holy Cross and put its nine freshmen to the test.

The team shook off its preseason jitters last weekend with unscored scrimmages against Quinnipiac and Adelphi. Team captain Caroline Crow ’12 said Yale’s strong play against these schools indicates the team has not lost its competitive edge, despite its losing 3–12 record and its eighth-place Ivy League finish last season. Nine of the team’s 23 players are freshmen, and Crow said she hopes the new talent will help put the Bulldogs back on top.

“Last season we did not get the results we had hoped for, but our team has come back this year working harder than ever and ready to play,” Crow. “The freshmen are great, and transitioning into the college game well. We expect that they will make a big impact this year.”

Head coach Anne Phillips added that she is especially excited about the younger players’ potential and the progress they have made so far, although she expects a learning curve. The loss of Second Team All-Ivy players Fielding Kidd ’11 and Kaitlyn Flatley ’11, who provided the bulk of the defense for the team, remains a concern, Phillips added. Jayne Flynn ’15, who is out with a foot injury, Kallie Parchman ’14 and Katherine Sherrill ’14 will round out the defense, Philips said.

Up the field, midfielder Devon Rhodes ’13 is another player to watch out for. Having scored 16 goals and played in all 15 matches last season, Rhodes was also named to the All-Ivy League second team in 2010. Rhodes said in an email that she has high expectations for the team this year.

“I think there are a lot of factors that are going to positively impact the outcome of our season,” Rhodes said. “Not only is our style of play faster than it has been in past years, but the team, especially our offense, is more confident and energetic than we have been in seasons prior.”

On offense, the team is working on ways to increase speed and to keep turnovers to a minimum, she said. Crow added that the team has a much stronger midfield this year and will be able to control the ball and feed the offense. While Harvard remains Yale’s biggest rival, Penn and Dartmouth are other teams to beat for the Ivies this year. Dartmouth is known to play strong physical defense, and Penn is usually recognized as a fast team with great ball handlers.

Yale last won an Ivy title in women’s lacrosse in 2003 and last gained a bid into the NCAA Tournament in 2007.

To win the title this year the Bulldogs must prevail in the playoffs, but the team can also take an NCAA bid by securing the best record during the regular conference season.

Crow said the team tries not to rely heavily on executing specific strategies and instead opts for adjustments from one game to the next.

“It is better to go out on the field and play your game and make the other team adjust,” she said. “The coaching staff does a great job in preparing us for how the other team plays and alerting us to their main threats.”

Although the official practice began on Feb. 1, the players have been preparing in individual workouts, lifting and conditioning since the beginning of the year. The team hopes these practices and Yale’s new talent will pay off Saturday.

“Even more importantly, our overall team dynamic on and off the field is stronger than it has ever been,” Rhodes said.

Last year, the team lost to Holy Cross 12–5. Saturday’s match begins at 11 a.m. at Reese Stadium.