The turning point came in March when they beat Connecticut.
The Canisius women's lacrosse team had never defeated the Huskies and getting a win with breathing room, 18-13, over a team from a power conference imbued the Golden Griffins with a new sense of confidence.
That win helped bolster the Griffs, who enter this weekend's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference semifinal as the No. 2 seed (12-5 overall, 5-1 MAAC) facing Siena at noon Friday in New Rochelle.
"I think when we upset UConn that gave our team so much more confidence than I think we've ever had before," senior attacker Taylor Gray said.
While it's the fourth straight year the Griffs have earned their way into the conference final four, there is a different aura around the team this time around. Skill, experience and confidence are mixing to create some exciting postseason potential.
The Griffs have a seasoned senior class, which with 39 wins is now the winningest class in program history. They've been to the MAAC semifinals three times before, but all three of those games were against Marist. This year, the Red Foxes failed to make the MAAC championship field and a new opponent may change the outcome.
The Griffs defeated Siena, 19-8, in their regular season meeting.
Add to that a growing sense of confidence, which comes not just from breaking through against UConn, but from playing top programs. Of their five losses this season, three have come to nationally ranked programs -- Vanderbilt, Stanford and Albany.
"I think playing the ranked teams gives us an ability to take from the game where we stand playing against them," said senior goalkeeper Allison Daley. "It's a big advantage for us to put ourselves out there against such capable players. We're in a better position now. We know what we have to do to win."
The experience of Daley and Gray as part of the six-player senior class is one of the key reasons for the Griffs' success.
Gray has 57 points on the season and is eight away from setting the school's single-season record. Daley, last year's MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, holds the program's all-time saves record with 629, which ranks third nationally among active players.
"The senior class has raised the bar to a new level," coach Scott Teeter said. "The one thing they are missing off their resume is the MAAC championship and they have an opportunity to go get it this weekend. They are the foundation of taking us to the next level by competing with nationally ranked teams this year and really the education to the younger classes really paves the way to a bright future for us."
Top-seeded Fairfield takes on host school Iona in the other semifinal with the winners playing in the championship at noon Sunday. The MAAC champion advances to play the Atlantic 10 Conference winner for a spot in the NCAA's 16-team championship bracket.