New season. New coach. New expectations. The 2008 York College women’s lacrosse team enters this year’s campaign with a fresh outlook and a bright future.
“I want to win a National Championship,” first-year head coach Jen Dragoni said. “That quest begins now with the 2008 season.”
The Spartans will begin that quest by looking to build on a 7-10 mark in 2007 after finishing 6-11 in the program’s inaugural season. Dragoni will be tasked with finding sufficient offensive production following the departure of Jaclyn Girsh and Brianna Yapps. The pair combined for 103 of York’s 203 goals last season en route to being selected as second-team All-Capital Athletic Conference and All-Metro Region performers.
“We return three of our top five scorers,” Dragoni said. “We have numerous players who have the ability to put the ball in the net multiple times per game.”
Senior midfielder Alison Napolitano and senior attack Kaitlin Davis will look to be two such players as they are the team’s top returning scorers. Transferring in as juniors, after winning the 2006 NJCAA National Championship at Anne Arundel Community College, the duo made an immediate impact in the Spartan program. Napolitano tallied 20 goals and a team-leading 21 assists last year while Davis tallied the most goals of any returning Spartan notching 28 goals in 2007.
“Alison and Kaitlin will provide great leadership for us this season,” Dragoni said. “Not only are they talented players but they know how to win.”
Senior attack Lindsay Nixon will look to add to the Spartan’s offensive potential. Nixon tallied eight goals and seven assists as a junior but has the ability to score in bunches as evidenced by her 31 goals in 2006. Freshman Molly Kerrigan brings a youthful exuberance and quality skill to the York side. She is a strong player who will be called upon to add offensive firepower. Senior Danielle Seling has made tremendous strides in her game over the off-season while sophomore Melissa Olsen adds increased depth the Spartan frontline.
“This is a solid group of athletes,” Dragoni said. “I am confident that as the season progresses we will see more and more offensive production as they gel together.”
Experience abounds in the Spartan midfield as Napolitano, Jaclyn VanLuit, Rachel Papsan, and Kristy Powers each embark on their senior campaigns. In addition to her offensive prowess, Napolitano is also a reliable defensive presence snapping up 32 ground balls and earning 22 draw controls last season. VanLuit’s 12 goals and 16 points were fifth-best on the squad in 2007 and Dragoni looks for even more production from her this year. Papsan will be charged with running the majority of the offensive sets as her solid passing skills will put her teammates into favorable positions throughout the season. Powers’ versatility and ability to gain possession, evidenced by her 39 ground balls in 2007, will be invaluable to the Spartan squad.
Joining this strong group of seniors are juniors Megan Bell and Carla Thomas along with sophomore Megan Foy and freshman Katie Bowers. Bell was a key cog in the defensive midfield last season and will be called upon to continue her stellar play. She earned a team-high 35 draw controls and caused a team-best 24 turnovers to go along with 35 ground balls. Thomas, who started ten Spartan contests in 2007, captured 31 ground balls and caused 13 turnovers. Her versatility will allow her to see minutes in both the offensive and defensive ends. Foy looks to build on her solid freshman campaign as she and Bowers will add quality depth to the Spartan midfield.
“We could be dangerous in the midfield,” Dragoni said. “The combination of experience and talent we have this season is hard to find in a young program. The midfield should be a strength of our squad.”
Defensively, senior Nicole Starner leads a quality group of defenders. The tall, athletic Starner picked up 34 ground balls last season and caused 13 turnovers as she started 16 of York’s 17 games. Junior Sara Schaffhauser and sophomore Kelly Vrana return to the Spartan backline for the 2008 season. The speedy Schaffhauser secured 29 ground balls and caused 10 turnovers last year. Her field vision and strong work ethic will keep many a Spartan opponent off the scoreboard. Vrana, who saw action in six games as a freshman, has improved tremendously in the off-season and looks to have a break-out year.
Joining Starner, Schaffhauser, and Vrana are newcomers Aubrey Newton, Katie Mansell, and Corey Hawks. Newton transfers in from Wilmington College for her junior season and should add stability to the backline. Freshman Mansell possesses great stick skills and a strong work ethic that will allow her to see ample time in her first season. Junior transfer Hawks adds increased depth to the defensive unit.
Junior goalkeeper Anne Feustle will once again patrol the posts as York’s top netminder. She brings plenty of experience as the starting goalkeeper the past two seasons and is set to lead the defense in 2008. Feustle’s 11.65 saves per game ranked her second in the CAC last year while she also posted a .470 save percentage.
“Our defense playing well is going to be key for us this season,” Dragoni said. “In order to win championships you must be able to keep teams off the board. Giving strong defensive efforts every game will be a focal point for us this year.”
Dragoni is eager to get her first season underway.
“I am looking forward to an exciting and successful 2008,” Dragoni said. “The excitement of getting to build a program and establishing ourselves as a quality team in a tough conference will propel us forward as we strive to improve every day.”
The Spartans open up their 2008 campaign at CAC rival St. Mary’s on February 20.