Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/12/17
From Press Release
The Lafayette women’s lacrosse team is done with talking about reaching its goals and analyzing why things didn’t fall its way a year ago. This year, the Leopards’ motto is “Whatever It Takes” as they’ve vowed to make a trip to the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since 2013 by any means necessary.
Last year’s group had a similar mindset, but a number of crushing close losses in league play and a key injury to start conference action ultimately left Lafayette on the outside looking in when it came time for the postseason. Senior midfielder and tri-captain Amanda Case (Haverford High) missed the first four conference games with a shoulder injury and the Leopards went 1-3 in those contests, including three straight by three goals or less. Having her return could make a world of difference in 2017.
“It feels awesome to be back. The injury was a bummer last year right at the beginning of league play, but the recovery has gone really well,” Case said. “I don’t even notice or think about it anymore and I couldn’t be happier to be back on the field for my senior season.”
All but one of the team’s seven losses in conference action a year ago came by a margin of five goals or less. Head coach Alison Fisher (Hatboro-Horsham) thinks that being a year older and a lot deeper could flip some of those games this spring.
“We have a ton of depth for the first time with legitimate midfield subs we can run in and out whenever we need to. This group definitely has a faith and a trust in the process and the system. They’re not trying to find their own way, but really just trying to implement what we’re asking them to do and then play off of that.”
The high expectations for this team are no surprise when you look at its roster as all five seniors are impact performers and have been for much of their careers. Kirsten Wilhelmsen (Strath Haven), Case and Charlotte Rath (Archmere Academy) were selected as the team’s captains and the success of this team will ride on their shoulders.
“The seniors are an incredible group. Kirsten is one of the best offensive players in the conference, and Charlotte and Amanda were captains as juniors, which gives them a lot of confidence in their voice and direction of their teammates,” Fisher said. “Maggie [Carver] and Ashley [Tedesco] (Friends’ Central) have worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes, leading by making everyone feel comfortable and doing their own jobs as well. It’s really comforting to know that the senior class has a consistent goal and a consistent vision that the whole team has been able to get behind.”
Rath has known that this group could be special since they stepped on the field for their freshman seasons. The three captains played in every game from the start of their rookie campaigns until Case went down midway through last season, totaling 148 games played between them.
“Everyone wants to leave an impact and a legacy on their respective program, but I really believe our senior class can do that. Ever since freshman year, we’ve all been on the field, received that experience, and developed as the years have gone by. Our team is ready to get to the Patriot League Tournament and have a chance at the title. We really think this year is our time.”
The Leopards open their 2017 season on Sunday against Longwood at Fisher Stadium with opening draw set for 1 p.m. Below is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2017 edition of Lafayette women’s lacrosse.
In her final season on College Hill, Wilhelmsen is poised to lead an attacking group that has the potential to be one of the best the Leopards have had in recent years. A Preseason All-Patriot League selection, Wilhelmsen is coming off a year in which she posted 53 goals, just the fifth player since 1980 to score more than 50 in a single season.
“Last year was a good one for me, but I definitely haven’t been pushed as hard in years past as I have this preseason,” Wilhelmsen said. “Our attackers as a whole are very good. We’re seeing the results of that depth in our overall attack, and in our speed of play and execution.”
Wilhelmsen’s execution was on point in 2016, notching her 100th career goal in a March 1 win over Iona. The Wallingford native recorded at least one goal in all 17 games for the Maroon and White, including two or more in all but two games. She led the Patriot League in scoring at 3.12 goals per contest, a stat good enough for 13th in the national rankings.
Chasing her tail for a share of the offensive production is sophomore Emma Novick, who burst onto the scene in her rookie campaign with 38 goals. Her production was consistent as well, registering three or more goals on six different occasions and at least one goal in all 15 games in which she played.
Novick, the Patriot League Rookie of the Week on Feb. 29, added three assists for 41 points on the year and tallied six goals in her first collegiate game, a win over Manhattan on Feb. 17.
“Emma obviously had a great freshman year,” Fisher added. “She’s had to grow her game over her first offseason and has been challenged to do things a little bit differently, so we’re excited to see how she adjusts in her sophomore season.”
Behind Lafayette’s top two threats is a number of options the Leopards can lean on. Senior Tedesco has a wealth of experience up front, seeing action in 15 of the 17 games a year ago and notching four goals and three assists.
Additionally, the sophomore pair of Kayla Guerin and Jane Kirby make up the attacking portion of a sophomore class that Fisher could not be more excited about.
“I’ve never had a class improve this much in one year,” Fisher stated about her sophomores. “They’ve been really impressive and have developed their own identity. They’ve really helped make this one of the most talented teams I’ve ever had.”
Kirby was in the top-five on the team in scoring throughout the fall season, while Guerin is slotted as the fourth or fifth attacker in this group after playing about eight minutes in her rookie campaign.
“Kayla came in as an out-of-region player and definitely had some things to work on, but now she’s consistently one of our top attackers and puts up points every day, every scrimmage, every practice,” Fisher added. “She’s someone we’ve come to depend on as an inside post player.”
Although she’ll see the majority of her time in the circle with draw controls, Kristin Schaen will also get some time up front. She’s had one of her best preseasons both on the draw and putting up points offensively, so the coaching staff is excited about the skillset she brings to the team this spring.
Freshman Emily Wingate has impressed since arriving on College Hill and will likely see some early time, while classmate Jen Rowan (Strath Haven) will fight for minutes in the rotation as well. Junior Lucy Linville and freshman Regan Kinney round out the group, but both are battling through injury and aren’t expected to see action this season.
Rath and Case lead a midfield group that features five players that were impact performers on the 2016 team. Senior Maggie Carver, along with sophomores Hannah Davey and Mairead Janzer (Haverford High), make this unit a productive one on both ends of the field.
Case has been the all-around producer for this bunch throughout her time on College Hill, managing 14 goals in her 12 games played a year ago. She was second on the team in scoring in her sophomore season in 2015, tallying 32 goals and three assists for 35 points, so the expectation for a bounce-back senior campaign is realistic.
Rath is a classic midfielder, exerting her dominance in all areas of the field, leading the Leopards in ground balls with 35 and finishing second in caused turnovers with 16 a year ago. She was also a Second-Team All-Patriot League selection in 2015.
Carver was the most productive of the midfield group last spring, tallying 17 goals and four assists for 21 points on the year. She tallied six multi-goal performances, including a hat trick against Central Conn. St. on April 4.
Moving into the underclassmen, Davey is someone who came back a different player in 2017. She improved as she got more comfortable with the system, recording seven goals and finishing third on the team with 28 draw controls, but Fisher says her confidence is at an all-time high.
“She’s unrecognizable in terms of her confidence and production. She’s playing like a veteran after just one season on the field.”
Janzer forced her way into the lineup midway through the 2016 season as someone Fisher could count on to make plays on a consistent basis. She finished with four goals in eight games, but is another player that’s made huge strides over the offseason and was a dominant scorer during the fall.
Others that are likely to work their way into the midfield rotation include junior Emma Hardy and freshmen Ashley Ender, Katie McDonald, Ally Hickey and Bella Alampi. Junior Erika Mazer could be a factor here as well, but an injury may force her to miss most of the 2017 season.
The group in front of the pipes for the Maroon and White this season will be a younger one, with likely three sophomores occupying the four starting spots. Junior Dana Smith will be the lone upperclassmen as the leader of a group that will look to cut into an 11.18 goals-against average last season.
“Dana settles everyone down and makes the defense run, which is important when you’re directing a young group,” Fisher said. “She makes up for her lack of size by being smarter than opposing attackers and she came in ridiculously fit and ready to go this season.”
As an offensively strong team, the team will not need shutouts from this unit, but its play will be a major key to the ultimate success of the program. Sophomores Annelise Kinney, Amelia Heisler and Elise Ashford will need to be up to the challenge, with just Heisler playing in more than 10 games last season.
That being said, Heisler is prepared to back up a strong freshman campaign with an even better sophomore season, impressing the coaching staff throughout the fall and preseason training. As a rookie, she led the Leopards in caused turnovers with 17, while picking up 15 ground balls and four draw controls.
Also competing for time in the defensive rotation will be sophomores Matty Novick and Dana Melby, and freshmen Dulcie Del Priore and Katie DeMarino, while sophomores Marissa Young and Tali Dressler round out the unit. Novick is a year removed from an ACL injury, but could be the difference-maker in this group as a spark player who can change momentum with her quickness on the defensive end.
The Maroon and White enter the 2017 campaign with three healthy goalies on their roster for the first time since 2013. Junior Anna Raymond and sophomore Allie Abacherli will see the bulk of the playing time, while freshman Taylor Danson has shown potential in her first preseason on College Hill.
Raymond played in every game for the Leopards last season, totaling more than 800 minutes and carrying an 11.04 goals-against average. She made 88 saves during that stretch and is characterized by Fisher as an eighth defender, playing outside of the cage, picking off passes and excelling as a director of the defense with a traditional style.
Abacherli has really matured in her sophomore season and will likely see more playing time between the pipes early in 2017. In just over 200 minutes of action last spring, she made 19 saves and allowed 42 goals for an 11.69 goals-against average. She’s seen a lot of improvement this offseason and posted the highest save percentage of the three net-minders during the preseason.
“Allie has really good reaction time so she can play higher in the crease,” Fisher added. “She’s put in a lot of work to make herself better and I’m happy for her. She’s making a lot of progress.”
Schaen looks like a vastly improved player in the circle and will start the year as the lone draw control specialist for the Maroon and White. The junior finished second to Wilhelmsen a year ago in the circle with 28 draw controls, but will likely see that number rise if her confidence can translate from the practice field to game action.
“Kristin has made herself into a legitimate specialist in the circle,” Fisher said. “She’s dominant in practice and could be a huge boost for us in the possession game.”
Wilhelmsen is the Leopards’ other main option at the circle, leading the team in each of the last two seasons with 45 draw controls each in 2015 and 2016.
The 2017 slate features eight games at Fisher Stadium, including three during the non-conference portion and five in the league season. The Leopards will face three teams that were receiving votes in the final Inside Lacrosse rankings at the end of the 2016 season. Patriot League foe Loyola finished at No. 20, while Rutgers and Navy were in the conversation, receiving votes in the 24th and 26th spots.
A meeting with Longwood opens the season on Sunday at 1 p.m., while Rutgers and Villanova are the other Leopard home non-conference games on Feb. 21 and March 15. A home matchup with Army kicks off the Patriot League season on March 18 at 1 p.m. and the Lehigh game returns to Fisher Stadium on April 19, a 7 p.m. tilt.
Senior Day is set for April 29 versus Navy before the Patriot League Tournament gets underway on May 2. The semifinal round will follow on May 5 and the tournament will conclude with the championship on May 7.