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2007 Women's Lacrosse Season Outlook
Sam Sankovich is one of four team co-captains in 2007.
Head coach Courtney Connor was named America East Coach of the Year in her first year at the Retriever helm and led UMBC to its first-ever America East regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a 5-1 conference record and 10-8 overall mark.
But the Retrievers were upset on their home field in the first round of the league championships, as they lost to fourth-seeded
“Last season this team made huge strides,” Connor said. “We set out a goal and we obtained that goal and we’re looking to build on that for this year. I think bigger and better things are in store for us.”
The Retrievers will have to overcome the losses of two America East all-conference first-team selections in midfielder Kelly Fiorani and defender Julie Libertini, as well as midfielder Ede Carpenter. The trio combined for 55 goals in 2006, including 39 by Fiorani, UMBC’s third all-time leading scorer.
But Connor believes the nine returning starters and 16 returning players overall, as well as the team’s 12 talented freshmen, are ready to fill the shoes left by the departed team members.
The Retrievers return five all-conference players from last season, including first-team attack Ali Levendusky, second-team midfielders Jen Kasper and Kelly Fahey and all-rookie team midfielder Kara Dorr and goalkeeper Susie Sweeney.
Sweeney, who ranked fourth in the America East in saves per game last season, will battle with freshman Kate Quick for the starting goalie job, and Connor believes both will see plenty of time in the net.
“They have been battling all year and it’s been great,” the head coach said. “They’ve raised each other’s level tremendously. What one excels at the other is getting better and closer and still pushing her teammate. They’re both great.”
Senior Sam Sankovich and speedy sophomores Laura Wilkin and Ashley Lancer will anchor the defense in front of Sweeney and Quick. Sankovich, who was voted a team co-captain, started 12 games last year and caused 10 turnovers, while Wilkin started seven games and Lancer four in their first season at UMBC but should transition into the starting 12 this year.
“Sam is one of our leaders on the defensive end of the field,” Connor said. “She’s a great takeaway player. Laura Wilkin is a very strong, quick match-up type of defender and Lancer is a tough player to get by on defense.”
Also seeing a lot of playing time on the back line will be senior Megan Mullins, junior Brittany Strasdauskas and freshman Erika Welck. Mullins, who will serve as a team co-captain in 2007, caused 13 turnovers in 17 games last year, while Strasdauskas established herself as a starter in 2006.
Athletic freshman Cari Haas will also see ample minutes once she completely recovers from a bout of mononucleosis. “Cari is a tremendous defensive player who knows where to be and when,” Connor said.
Freshman Colleen Conrad and sophomore Stephanie Douglas will also battle for playing time on defense.
Junior Maggie Chizmar will anchor the defensive end of the midfield along with two freshmen in Kelly Burgoyne and Sarah Willis.
Chizmar ranked fifth on the team last year with 40 ground balls and 23 draw controls as primarily a sub, but Connor envisions the 5-foot-10 junior potentially working her way into the starting lineup this season.
Burgoyne, an honorable mention All-American who comes from an extremely successful high school program, and Willis are very fast and athletic.
“While they will be running our defensive midfield, they also have the capability to make an impact on the offensive side of the field,” Connor said of the rookies.
Also seeing playing time as a defensive midfielder will be freshman Claire Jancuska.
Fahey, Dorr and Kasper will anchor the attacking midfield. Fahey, a 2007 team co-captain, ranked third on the team with 33 goals and 33 draw controls en route to her second-team honors, while Dorr had an outstanding freshman campaign with 24 goals and a team-best 46 ground balls.
“Dorr is a player that is all over the field on both ends,” Connor said. “She’s an absolute workhorse and is definitely going to put up numbers for us. Fahey is the same type of player and we’re really looking for her to lead the offensive side of the field.”
Kasper made a successful return from knee surgery with 26 goals and 16 assists last season after missing most of 2005. She will serve as team co-captain for the second year in a row.
“Kasper is a great dodger and a good feeder,” Connor said. “She’s just an all-around threat on the offensive end of the field.”
Also expected to earn spots in the starting lineup are freshmen Amanda Gable and Megan Cook. “They are smart players who have a knack for the cage,” Connor said.
Senior Lynnea Spinnenweber, who scored seven goals as a junior in her first season at UMBC, will see ample playing time, while junior Sarah Wilkin, who missed all of 2006 with a knee injury, is expected to see more minutes as she completes her recovery.
“Lynnea is a crafty-type of attacker who has a rocket shot,” Connor said. “It will be good to see Sarah Wilkin back on the field again. She’s getting back in the swing of things.”
Also competing for playing time will be freshman Rachel Pincus.
Levendusky will lead the attacking unit, along with sophomore Abbey Swift. Levendusky led the team with 41 goals and 54 points in 2006, becoming the first Retriever to score 50 points since 2003 and the first with 40 goals since 2002. Swift, a 5-foot-11 attacker, scored five goals in 10 games while working her way back from a knee injury.
“It’s great to see Abbey back out on the field completely healthy,” Connor said. “Ali has tremendous accuracy and will work hard at getting off the best possible shot.”
Junior Meghan Keelan started all 18 games last year, leading the Retrievers with 18 assists, and will see plentiful minutes in 2007. Senior Heather Licht will again be a key sub on the front line, as will freshman Natalie Cullers.
Freshman Sara Marshall and sophomore Kyle Routson will also compete for playing time on the attack.
The Retrievers, once again, have an extremely challenging non-conference schedule, as they will take on two opponents who are ranked in the preseason polls –
“Just to be able to play good competition while having a good strength of schedule was important to us this year, both in conference and out,” Connor said.
America East action will be highlighted by a home game against preseason favorite
UMBC will also take on four in-state rivals, including Connor’s alma mater