Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/14/13
From Press Release
The Lehigh women’s lacrosse team has made five of the last six Patriot League Tournaments. The Mountain Hawks won two of their first three league games a season ago, but struggled down the stretch, falling just shy of their sixth straight postseason berth.
Senior captains Julie McBrien, Anna Patterson and MaryLeah DiNisco look to lead a young squad back to familiar territory – the Patriot League Tournament – where it hopes to compete for a league championship and NCAA Tournament berth.
Predicted fourth in the Patriot League preseason poll, Lehigh has the pieces in place. The Mountain Hawks are a young squad with nine freshmen and eight sophomores.
“I’m confident in the group and would expect some breakout individual performances,” said head coach Jill Redfern (Ursinus). “The key for us is getting better every time out.”
Lehigh’s attack looks strong at the onset of the season as Patterson, sophomore Carli Sukonik (Harriton) and freshman Megan Paytas lead the way. Patterson will be relied upon for her leadership, and strong play. Patterson played in nine games last season and finished the season with three assists. She’s only two years removed from a 28-point season while posting 21 points as a freshman.
Meanwhile, Sukonik is looking to continue the momentum from a stellar freshman campaign when she posted a team-high 41 goals and 47 points. She stood fifth in the Patriot League in goals per game and had seven hat tricks, 10 multi-goal games and 11 multi-point games. Sukonik was also named a Second Team All-Patriot League honoree while earning a spot on this year’s inaugural preseason All-League Team.
Paytas is expected to contribute early in her collegiate career. The Summit, N.J. native finished with 279 career points in high school and was named All-Conference and First Team All-County each of her final two seasons.
Other attackers in the mix include freshman Victoria Kotowski, sophomore Scarlett Nawrocki and juniors Chelsea Retaleato and Julie Tatios (Bayard Rustin).
An All-Patriot League performer, McBrien anchors a young midfield with a lot of potential. McBrien finished third on the team last year with 36 points and second in both goals (24) and assists (12). This came after a 29-point campaign in 2011 behind 18 goals and 11 helpers. She had five straight multi-point games to end the season and 11 for the year. McBrien was also named a Second Team All-Patriot League honoree and won the team’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year award at the annual end-of-year banquet. A converted defender, McBrien is strong at both ends of the field, owning 62 groundballs, 78 draw controls and 34 caused turnovers in her career.
Sophomore Kelsey Yenco looks to build on the success of her freshman season when she posted 13 points behind seven goals and six assists. She was one of six Mountain Hawks to start all 16 games.
Freshmen Kendall Garden and Kris Abens (Unionville) look to step in and make an immediate impact as well. Garden was a star lacrosse and field hockey player at Archbishop Spalding High School in Maryland, winning numerous awards over her career for her efforts on the field and in the classroom. Meanwhile, Abens was a Second Team All-Ches-Mont honoree while leading the team in scoring.
Freshman Nicole Isdaner has impressed and should see significant time off the bench while sophomores Emily Solenberger (Downingtown East) and Brianna Buysse (Notre Dame) are squarely in the mix for playing time as well.
Although mainly underclassmen, the defense will be experienced as all three of last year’s starters return in sophomores Michelle Abramczyk, Lauren Willcox (Agnes Irwin) and Kelly Scott, all of whom started all 16 games last season. Abramczyk finished the season with nine groundballs, nine draw controls and three caused turnovers. Willcox anchored the defense, posting one goal, 14 groundballs, 13 draw controls and eight caused turnovers. Scott finished the season with 13 groundballs, 13 draw controls and four caused turnovers.
Freshman Lauren Molina is the leading candidate as the fourth starter at defense, while classmates Hannah Street and Elizabeth Johnson (Moorestown) are competing for time as well.
Junior Alexandra Fitzpatrick is expected to start in goal after missing most of 2012 after suffering an injury against Temple. Fitzpatrick was one of the nation’s top goalies as a freshman, earning First Team All-Patriot League honors with an 8.66 GAA and 50.6 save percentage. The save percentage led the league and stood third best in the nation. Fitzpatrick did earn Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week before her injury last season after stopping 11-of-16 in the season opener vs. Marist.
Lehigh will also look to DiNisco for experience when called upon. She finished last season with a 12.32 GAA and 39.9 save percentage. She also earned the Coaches Award at the team’s annual end-of-year banquet. DiNisco has starting experience, having started 12 games as a freshman in leading Lehigh to the Patriot League Championship Game.
Freshman Marina Venezia rounds out the group in goal.
Lehigh has been hard at work in a preseason which has included frigid temperatures and some significant snowfall.
“It’s great training for adversity and dealing with the elements and whatever comes your way on a particular day,” said Redfern. “Whoever handles it the best is going to have an advantage. Our girls have not blinked at the temperatures. Resiliency is something we want as a cornerstone of our program.”
The potential is there as the Mountain Hawks look to continue their recent success and make their sixth Patriot League Tournament in the past seven years. Through hard work and experience, Lehigh looks to improve every day.
“I think we have a gritty team and one that can have some quality endurance over the course of a game,” said Redfern. “We have a lot of personnel to sort through and figure out exactly which roles people are going to be in, but they’re a together team and committed to establishing a winning tradition.”