YORK, Pa. – The York College women's lacrosse team enters the 2011 campaign as a program that has officially begun to turn the corner. Following last year's 10-6 season, just one year after the Spartans went 7-10 with only 14 players on the roster, the Green and White embark on this slate with 29 student-athletes and their best talent pool to date.
"We are really excited at this point in our program's history," Spartan fourth-year head coach Jen Dragoni said. "We are starting to build on the foundation we have laid over the past several years. As long as we are willing to put in the hard work, I really believe we will start to see some great results."
The Spartans will have talent throughout the roster this season, much of it coming from York's underclassmen. With that said however, leadership will be a key asset to the Green and White's overall success in 2011. Captains Katie Bowers, Molly Kerrigan, Katie Mansell, and Whitney Kendall will be called upon to keep everyone on the same page and move the squad in the right direction.
"Our four captains this year really understand what it takes to be successful at this level," Dragoni said. "They each bring something different to the table that will help us continue to grow. Our captains will be vital to our success throughout the year.
The Spartan attack is set up to potentially be the most potent in the history of the program. A major reason for that optimism is sophomore Kim Wayson, who returns following All-Capital Athletic Conference performance in 2010. As a rookie, Wayson notched team-highs with 57 goals and 15 assists for 72 points – the third-highest single-season total in program history.
"She had a tremendous freshman season," Dragoni said of Wayson. "To come in and right away become one of the best scorers in our conference is something special. We are most encouraged though by the fact that she has continued to work on her game. Kim just wants to be better all the time."
Joining Wayson in the attack will be fellow sophomores Lauren Kula and Kasie White. Both are experienced feeders who will look to quarterback the Spartan offense throughout the year. Kerrigan and junior Meaghan Doak, who both possess veteran experience, will look to push for time in the attack while Bowers and Rachel Klado will add even more experienced depth to the attacking unit.
"We have a great deal of experienced talent in our attack this season," Dragoni commented. "These players have been in our system and understand what we want to accomplish up front."
Bringing even more ferocity to the Spartan offense, Coach Dragoni has brought in another exceptionally talented group of attacking players. Melissa Ritchey, Jenna Hiponia, and Erica Mulford, will look for significant time and results in just their freshman seasons while Megan Brown will add depth to the attacking unit.
"I really like how far our new players have come already and where they will go," Dragoni said. "There is some outstanding new talent in our attack that will help us be an improved offense this year."
York begins the 2011 season sporting a talented and experienced midfield. Leah Schultz returns to the lineup following an excellent 2010 campaign where she posted 37 goals and seven assists as both totals ranked her second on the squad. With her performance as a rookie, Schultz joined Wayson on the All-CAC second-team.
"Leah had a great season as a freshman," Dragoni said. "She really blossomed as the year went along and became a go-to player for us. We are looking forward to seeing what a year of experience will mean for her this year."
Joining Schultz in the midfield are juniors Kendall and Ashley Kanzler. Kendall, a captain this year, is more of a defensive-minded player who will greatly aid York's transition while Kanzler is an exceptionally dangerous player in the offensive end, having tallied 34 goals and ten assists over the previous two seasons.
Freshmen Toni DiLeonardi and Sam Smith embark on their careers with the York program as a pair of rookies who should see quality minutes in the Spartan midfield. Sisters Kimberly and Kerri Nicholich will add even more depth to York's midfield
"Overall, we are very pleased with our midfield," Dragoni said. "We have an outstanding mix of talent, veteran leadership, and young enthusiasm. We should be very strong through the midfield this year."
On the defensive end, the Spartans will look to senior captain Mansell for both leadership and quality play. Sophomore Katie Vautier enters the 2011 campaign after being a big presence in the York defense last season and is expected to have a breakout year. Fellow sophomore Jordan Hall joins Mansell and Vautier in the defensive third to form a strong and experienced backline. Senior Brittany Geraghty, junior Kerry Felton, and sophomore Michelle Moore will add experienced depth to the defensive unit.
Joining that trio, Kristin Virag and Jess Soroka enter into the defensive mix as rookies this year. Both are talented defenders that should give the Green and White quality minutes in 2011. Fellow freshman Catey Christian will look to gain experience and provide depth for the Spartan defense this year.
"Our defense has worked hard to improve and will continue to do so," Dragoni said. "It is not only individual talent but the ability to communicate, help, and support that makes defenses great. We believe that if we keep working and keep improving we will have a very solid defensive core."
In the goal, the Spartans welcome back a pair of sophomores as Kelsey Evans and Tina Nicklas return between the pipes. Evans put on a solid performance for the Green and White last season as she started all 16 Spartan contests. She is currently battling back from an injury and working hard in order to return to game form. Nicklas enters the year as the Spartans starter, having played in 11 contests for York as a rookie. A strong offseason has helped Nicklas further prepare for the rigors of the college game and she will be counted upon to play strong minutes as a sophomore.
"We have two young and talented goalkeepers," Dragoni said. "As Kelsey is in the process of battling back we are going to need Tina to step up and make an impact, something we thoroughly believe she will do."
With such a tremendous mix of student-athletes to begin the season, the Spartans could begin to realize the program's outstanding potential.
"This year could be very exciting," Dragoni said. "What we have in terms of talent, experience, and quite frankly sheer numbers is great cause for optimism. We just need to work hard and keep improving every single day."
And constant improvement is a must in the tough Capital Athletic Conference. The Spartans play in one of the best league's in the nation as conference foes Salisbury (the 2010 NCAA champions) and Mary Washington are enter the season ranked #2 and #17, respectively, according to Lacrosse Magazine.
"There is no doubt that we play in a top-tier conference," Dragoni said. "The CAC definitely provides a significant challenge. Obviously it will be a tough road, but I truly believe that our team is excited for the opportunity to take on that challenge."
The Spartans officially begin their 2011 campaign on Saturday, February 19, when they travel to Dover, Del. to take on Wesley in a 1:00 pm CAC contest.
Team photo courtesy of Zach Clabaugh - www.sharpedgefoto.com