YORK, PA - New beginnings. Not the beginning of a new team, but the beginning of a prolific program. The York College women’s lacrosse team enters the 2010 season no longer an expansion squad, but a bonafide contender in the mid-atlantic region.
“We are building a program here at York,” head coach Jen Dragoni said. “We have put down the necessary foundation and now we are building up. It is going to take a lot of hard work to get to where we ultimately want to be, but I believe we are on the right track.”
One of the region’s top young coaches, Dragoni enters her third season at the helm of the Spartan program optimistic after a fantastic offseason.
“We have some great talent returning this season, players who gained valuable experience last year and worked very hard in the offseason,” Dragoni said. “We get to couple that with a great crop of newcomers who are going to push for time and look to be instant impact players.”
The Spartans should indeed be optimistic heading into this season. Highlighting that optimism are senior captains Meg Foy, Kelly Vrana, and Courtney Heller. Foy, a two-year Spartan captain, is a natural leader whose tremendous ability and competitive attitude drive the Spartan squad. Foy is a fantastic all-around performer who will provide offensive spark and defensive bite for the York squad. Vrana returns as an All-Capital Athletic Conference performer in 2009. A tough student-athlete with outstanding skill, Vrana is set to be the backbone of the defensive unit in 2010. Heller comes into the year as another exceptionally talented defender. A solid presence on the defensive end, Heller is expected to be an outstanding player and leader this season.
“Our three captains are simply incredible,” Dragoni raved. “They each bring something different and unique to the table. Meg [Foy] is the heart of our team and is one of the top players in the conference. Kelly [Vrana] gives us a veteran who is aggressive yet intelligent on the defensive end. Courtney [Heller] adds a solid and consistent presence on defense, and is ready for a tremendous 2010.”
These three will look to lead a very young Spartan squad, which consists of over 70 percent underclassmen. Of the 24 student-athletes on the roster, 17 are either sophomores or freshmen, while 13 are new to the Spartan program.
“Despite adding so many newcomers, our team has come together and really gelled as a unit,” Dragoni said. “Being a close-knit team will play a significant role in our ability to be successful this year. I believe we are headed in the right direction.”
One of the major keys to that success will be York’s talented defensive unit. Despite their aforementioned youth, the Green and White return four players who spent significant time on the defensive end of the field in 2009. Joining Vrana and Heller are Katie Mansell and Brittany Geraghty, juniors who each saw considerable time in the Spartan defensive third last year. Mansell, who started 14 of the 15 contests in which she appeared in 2009, is a dedicated player that communicates well with her teammates in an effort to thwart opposing attacks. Geraghty will look to draw on the valuable experience she gained as a sophomore for an even better 2010.
Adding to York’s strong core of defenders are four newcomers who will add significant talent to the ranks. Katie Vautier comes to the program looking to be a solid contributor from day one. Vautier is an aggressive defender whose relentless pursuit of the ball will gain valuable possessions for the Green and White. Fellow rookie Jordan Hall is another outstanding youngster with the ability to compete for time right away. A strong defensive presence, Hall has great stick skills and the ability to stop opposing attacks. Michelle Moore brings a great understanding of defensive concepts to the Spartan squad while Kerry Felton will look to add quality depth to the unit.
The Green and White’s goalkeeping unit adds to York’s already outstanding defense. A pair of rookie netminders brings exceptional ability between the Spartan pipes. Kelsey Evans, who helped her high school team to a Maryland state title in 2009, will look to make an immediate impact as a freshman. Evans sports not only solid ability but also a great drive to improve her skills everyday. Tina Nicklas joins the Spartan squad as another talented rookie. Nicklas, who has outstanding confidence and a superb work ethic, will strive to push for time in the cage this season as she continues to hone her skills. Both goalies will make an immediate impact on the squad.
“Our defense looks to be the strong point of our team this season,” Dragoni said. “With the mix of veteran talent and youthful exuberance that we have, I believe that we can be very strong in the back. We will be able to be more aggressive, more proactive in what we do defensively, which will help us be very difficult to score against.”
In the midfield, the Green and White host a slew of excellent players that will help the Spartans reach new heights this season. Led by Foy, who is arguably the top midfielder in the CAC, this group returns four starters from a season ago while welcoming a pair of stellar rookies.
“Our midfield consists of athletic players, with plenty of experience, who can get up and down the field and do positive things for us on both ends,” Dragoni said. “We have fast, strong players that are capable of scoring goals on the offensive end as well as stopping attacks on the defensive end. Our midfield could become a very strong area of our squad this season.”
The three returners are each entering their sophomore campaigns after gaining valuable game experience in 2009, starting a combined 48 of 51 contests. Ashley Kanzler had a fantastic first season in a Spartan uniform tallying 27 points on 23 goals and four assists. Instant offense, Kanzler possesses marvelous stick skills and has the ability to dodge past defenders. She will be called upon to provided York with steady, consistent, and sterling play throughout the year. Meaghan Doak, who is primed for a breakout year in 2010, was another offensive force in just her freshman season. After tallying 14 goals last year, she will now be looked upon to lead York’s offensive plays. With her innate ability to find open teammates, Doak should become a great playmaker. Whitney Kendall, a more defensive-minded midfielder, returns for season number two in the Green and White. A hard-working player, Kendall uses her superb defensive positioning as well as her outstanding speed and endurance to not only frustrate opponents but also provide a spark for the Green and White.
Rookies Leah Schultz and Kimberly Wayson are two newcomers who will be expected to be immediate contributors. Schultz is an aggressive defender who also has outstanding stick skills that will help her add punch to the Spartan offense. Wayson, a two-time all-county player in high school, is extremely dangerous in the open field and is able to create as well as finish scoring opportunities.
York’s attacking unit, aided by a talented midfield, should create plenty of offense for the Spartans in 2010. A mix of experienced returners combined with gifted freshmen will give the Green and White a potent and dangerous attack.
Junior Molly Kerrigan opens the season as a quality leader for this group after scoring 19 goals and dishing out five assists in her 17 games last year. Kerrigan, who has gained considerable experience over the past two seasons, is an aggressive and strong player who has the ability to score in bunches. Fellow junior Katie Bowers has improved her skills tremendously and will look to be a valuable asset on the offensive end this season. Sophomore Rachel Klado is set to provide veteran depth to the attack while her dedication and work ethic continue to rub off on her teammates.
Kasie White, Lauren Kula, Kelsey Byrd, Chelsae Damm, and Kara Dorsey make their rookie appearance on the Spartan roster as each looks to make an impact. White is a very talented player with the ability to perform well at the collegiate level right away. She understands the game extremely well for a youngster while also possessing the ability to shoot in tight space as well as find open teammates. Kula, a freshman with loads of potential, joins the attack as another immediate impact player. Her exceptional ability to “thread the needle” with her passes as well as consistent movement should make her a serious threat on the offensive end. Byrd, yet another outstanding dodger with a great stick, has a nose for the goal that should pay dividends for the Spartan program both this season and in years to come. Damm is a hard-working student-athlete who continues to improve while Dorsey, who will gain valuable collegiate experience this year, will add needed depth to the attacking unit.
“The talent level that we have within our attack will allow us to be very creative and very dangerous this season,” Dragoni commented. “Our depth is another key asset this year that will allow us to go all-out throughout the entire 60 minutes. Each of our attackers has the ability to score and, as long as they work well together, should be able to score in bunches.”
As the optimism abounds, Dragoni knows that a squad with such a talented crop of underclassmen could be the beginning of a very bright future.
“This is going to be an extremely important season for the future of this program,” Dragoni said. “The upperclassmen will really need to step up each day and lead the younger players in the right direction. We have some very talented student-athletes on this roster who, no matter what their age is, can play high-quality lacrosse at the Division III level.”
The Spartans’ new beginning, one filled with promise and hope, officially begins on Saturday, February 20, when the Green and White host Montclair St. at York’s Kinsley Field in a 1:00 p.m. tilt.
2010 team photo courtesy of Zach Clabaugh www.sharpedgephoto.smugmug.com