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College preview: @LehighWLacrosse looks to contend in the Patriot League

Friday, 9th February 2018

Categories College, Girl's/Women's  
 

Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/9/18
From Press Release

The Lehigh women’s lacrosse program has enjoyed sustained success, advancing to four straight Patriot League Tournaments, which includes 25 wins over the past two years.

Sondra Dicker (Conestoga)

Heading into 2018, all the Mountain Hawks are focused on is today.

“We’re very proud of our team, the players (past and present), their dedication and what they’ve contributed to the ascent of our program,” said Lehigh head coach Jill Redfern (Ursinus College), a recent inductee into the U.S. Lacrosse National Hall of Fame.

“Obviously, we’re excited to be positioned where we are and we don’t want to undersell our players, but our main goal is to respect each opponent and to compete well every time out.”

Over the last four years, Lehigh has improved one position in the Patriot League standings, from sixth to fifth to fourth and last year, third. The Mountain Hawks convincingly defeated Bucknell in the league quarterfinal to win a Patriot League Tournament game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. Lehigh then dropped a hard-fought one-goal final to Navy in the semis, a team that went on to win three NCAA Tournament games and advance to the Final Four.

But that was last year. This is now.

Lehigh lost several key players, including 2016 Patriot League Attacker of the Year Allison LaBeau, currently in her first year as Mountain Hawks’ assistant coach. Also graduating was All-League midfielder Lauren Beausoleil along with starting goalkeeper Taylor Tvedt. Despite those losses, two-time first team All-Patriot League honoree Julianne D’Orazio (Merion Mercy) returns for her fifth year while Lehigh returns plenty of talent all over the field.

The Mountain Hawks return practically everyone on the defensive end of the field in D’Orazio, seniors Kayleen Kelly, Alexis King (Conestoga) and Kierstyn Voiro (Moorestown), along with junior Olivia Kelly. Lehigh allowed the fewest goals in the league last season, allowing just 174 for a league-best 9.67 per contest. Lehigh’s top four in caused turnovers last season all return in D’Orazio (35), Voiro (27), King (22) and Olivia Kelly (21).

“These athletes have all played tons of minutes for us on defense,” said Redfern. “They’re a very seasoned group and they are tenacious. The newcomer on the defensive end will be freshman goalkeeper Sam Sagi.”

Year after year, Lehigh seems to field an impressive group of midfielders who impact the game on both ends of the field. That’s no different in 2018. D’Orazio spearheads the midfield after a 2017 season which saw her break out on the offensive end to help complement her defensive impact from day one. D’Orazio shattered her previous career highs for goals (36) and points (42), scoring multiple goals in 10 of her final 12 games. Sophomore Sondra Dickey (Conestoga) also returns in the midfield after posting 22 goals, 25 points, 27 groundballs, 16 caused turnovers and 10 draw controls during her rookie campaign. Freshmen Hannah Cermack also joins the Mountain Hawk midfield.

“Our midfielders are the workhorses of our team,” said Redfern. “We have athletes in all four classes who will be called upon to support our midfield production.”

At attack, junior Courtney Henig looks to step into a key role with the graduation of LaBeau. Henig quietly put together a tremendous year in 2017, finishing with a career-high 51 points behind 22 goals and 29 assists.

“Courtney handles the ball the most for us, so we expect a big year from her,” said Redfern. “She’s continually improving. A feeder and dodger, Courtney’s vision is key to our production on offense.”

Additionally, senior Haley Wentzel (Boyertown) also returns on the offensive end after tallying 39 points via 34 goals and five assists last season.

“Haley is a tremendous threat in our transition game,” said Redfern.

Predicted third in the Patriot League preseason poll, the Mountain Hawks’ highest preseason ranking since Boston University and Loyola joined the league, it is evident that expectations around the Lehigh women’s lacrosse program continue to be high. The team is focused on being a unit at all times – on gameday, at practice, in the weight room or even outside of lacrosse.

Every role is important. To enjoy success, everyone will need to do their part.

“The culture that we want is every player on our team be valued and contribute,” said Redfern. “It’s a little unclear exactly what game minutes will look like, but we’re trying to worry less about that and more about just contributing and winning games as a group.”

“I think we’re going to be a little bit less predictable with who’s going to put the ball in the back of the net,” said associate head coach Sammy Cermack.

It all begins on Feb. 10 as the Mountain Hawks host St. Bonaventure at 1 p.m.

“We’re definitely a process-driven program because we believe so much in player development,” said Redfern. “Now, we just need to focus on the development of the team winning games. You can only do that one game at a time. Start off with St. Bonaventure and go from there.”

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