Women’s Lacrosse 2011 Season Outlook
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The JU women’s lacrosse team will look to start a new year with momentum when it hosts Big East-member Cincinnati in the season opener on Sunday afternoon. Game time against the Bearcats is set for 1 p.m. at D.B. Milne Field.

The Dolphins will be looking to build off an 8-11 inaugural campaign that culminated with an appearance in the National Lacrosse Conference semifinals in 2010. JU returns seven of its top-12 scorers from last year’s unit, giving head coach Mindy McCord a mix of fresh faces and veterans to round out the roster.

“We’ve been working hard through our fall program and the preseason and I feel we’re ready to jump into the season and start strong,” said McCord, who was named the NLC’s Co-Coach of the Year for her efforts last season.

In all, 13 letter-winners are back to complement 18 new players. Leading the way is sophomore attacker Amanda Hurley. The Columbus, Ga. native tallied 29 goals and five assists (34 points) in 18 games as a freshman, compiling a .518 shooting percentage.

Junior attacker Sarah Michel enters 2011 on a three-game goal scoring streak from last season. Michel scored seven goals in her last three games, highlighted by a hat trick against Davidson in the penultimate contest of 2010.

Nicole Albino played in all 19 games and netted 10 goals last year. The junior will vie even more action as a veteran on an otherwise young attacking unit. Sophomore Carly Garrison also appeared in every game, contributing eight goals and 16 draw controls.

Junior Kayleigh Hynes and sophomore Katelyn Thompson can also potentially bolster an offensive unit that averaged just more than 12 goals per game in 2010. Thompson scored three goals in eight games and will compete for extended playing time this year.

“The players that returned are helping the young players get comfortable with our style and ours systems,” McCord said. “It’s been exciting to see the team come together.”

McCord will have plenty of fresh faces to fortify the offense. Seven freshmen could see time on attack, including Morgan Derner, Nikki Erdely, Ally Dell, Ali Hoffman, Angela Sperbeck and Jen Cosgrove.

Double-digit scorers Ellyn Spangenberg and Abigail Warnken are also back to headline the midfield positions. The sophomore duo combined for 59 points in the previous year. Spangenberg started all 19 games, scoring 23 goals and adding 12 assists for 35 points. Warnken chipped in 14 goals and 10 assists and collected 42 ground balls to tie for the team lead.

Middie Rachel Krell provided depth and will now look for an extended role this season after playing in 18 games last year. Five freshmen will be in the midfield mix as well, including Kaitlin Stewart, Morgan Basler, Kelly Baisey, Chelsea Watts and Melissa Jaworski.

On defense, junior Jessica Hotchkiss is back to lead a unit that forced 131 turnovers. Hotchkiss tied Warnken with 42 ground balls and was second on the team with 12 caused-turnovers in earning first-team all-conference honors.

For JU, the defensive side contains the most experience. Rachel Hannon played in all 19 games and started 18 in splitting time between defense and midfield. Hannon registered 36 ground balls and 22 draw controls and will look to improve on those numbers as a sophomore.

Sophomore Elizabeth Gatch eased into her role last season, scooping up six ground balls in nine games. Junior Mel Hicks will also provide experience in the backfield after playing two seasons at Detroit-Mercy and Celita Gorman returns after being a reserve on the first ever JU team.

The Dolphins also are extending a youth infusion to the defensive unit. Freshmen Sara Martin, Rachel Forman, Kaylee Quint and sophomore Brianna Huynh will try and crack the rotation.

“Our leadership is on the defensive end,” McCord said. “Championships are won on the back line. We hope to have a lot of continuity with that group.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Karli Tobin will be entrusted with keeping the ball out of the cage again. As a freshman, Tobin played in 18 games and started 15, logging 156 saves and a .425 save percentage. She is expected to be the opening day starter. Overall, JU has 16 freshmen and 11 sophomores on the roster, allowing McCord to enter her second year with a chance to develop a conference-title contender for 2011 and beyond.

“We try to look at small goals that are realistic and achievable and we believe that will build to our ultimate goal, which is competing for a NLC championship,” McCord said.

- By Brian Bohl