2005 Women's Lacrosse Outlook
With a year of America East play under their belt, the UMBC Women’s Lacrosse team looks forward to challenging their conference opponents for the 2005 championship title.
In their inaugural season with the America East, the Retrievers went 5-11 overall, and finished third in the conference with a 4-2 record. They advanced to the league tournament, where they narrowly missed going to the America East title game, dropping a 12-10 decision to preseason favorite Boston University in the semi-finals.
UMBC’s 2004 schedule proved to be one of the toughest in the nation, as they faced ranked teams such as Duke, North Carolina, Loyola, Old Dominion, William & Mary, and Virginia. Furthermore, the Retrievers suffered a few heartbreakers, losing close decisions to area rivals Towson and Mount St. Mary’s.
This season, Head Coach Monica Yeakel looks to improve on last year’s finish, making it the team’s goal to claim the conference title and return to the NCAA Tournament. “This year’s team is very strong and they have a lot of potential,” said the coach. “If we remember our strengths, we can definitely go very far.”
For the first time in her coaching career, Yeakel will receive help from a complete UMBC-alumni coaching staff, as former Retriever standouts Lauren Traber and Jen Dragoni join her on the sidelines in 2005. In addition, Annie Davis, who has played for Yeakel for the past three years, will serve as a student assistant. “The entire coaching staff works so well together,” said Yeakel. “Having alumni on the staff is a great asset because we all share the same goals.”
This season, teaming up to lead the attack will be captains Lauren Hess and Jocena Venditti. Hess, a fifth-year player who posted 17 goals and 13 assists last season, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the fall, and will look to get back on the field as soon as possible. “She is a dependable player who will add so much to the depth of the offense,” said Yeakel.
Despite competing for the first time only in 2004, Venditti, a fourth-year, is considered to be the team’s emotional leader. According to the coaching staff, “she brings a calming, positive attitude to the entire team when on the field.” Last season, she saw action in 14 games, while posting six goals and two helpers.
The third team captain, fourth-year Stephanie Crouch, returns to anchor the Retriever defense. An America East First Team Defender in 2004, Crouch has been a starter since she was a freshman, and will take a more active role on offense this year, in addition to taking some draw controls.
Other 2004 All-Conference players on the squad this year are third-year Kelly Fiorani, who was selected to the America East First Team, and second-year Kelly Fahey, who was a member of the America East Second Team, in addition to being an All-Rookie selection.
Fiorani, who has scored 71 career goals, is a tough player with an excellent shot, and can go both ways on the field. “She now has two years of Division I experience, and is beginning to step up into the veteran mindset,” said Yeakel. Similarly, Fahey is once more expected to start, and will primarily take the draw controls. An unselfish and balanced player, she sees the attack well, and has improved on her defensive skills. “She has great stickwork,” added Yeakel. “It is only her second year, but she plays like a senior.”
Also helping out on offense will be third-years Kate Worthington and Jenny Kasper. Worthington, one of the team’s most consistent players, ranked third on the squad last season with 24 goals, and will be counted on to produce again for 2005. Her classmate, Kasper, played in every game last year, and is expected to start again this season. “Kasper is a smart player who can go on both ends of the field,” said Yeakel. “Right now, she’s playing with a lot of confidence and has shown a great deal of improvement from last year.”
At midfield, UMBC returns fourth-year player Anna Jacobs and second-year Megan Mullins. Both are natural lefties, and while Jacobs will be the team’s main midfield connector, Mullins will start as a defensive wing. Both athletes have worked hard to improve their stickwork in the off-season, and will be looked to for added leadership on the field.
On defense, the Retrievers will rely on fourth-year player Julie Libertini and second-years Sam Sankovich and Kristina Raab. Libertini, a fourth-year, has developed into a more solid player, and will be looked upon to help a young defensive squad, while the second-year Sankovich will receive more playing time this year, as she has worked hard to become an aggressive, but controlled low defender.
At goal, Raab, who earned the starting keeper position late last year, will return as a starter in 2005. “The experience she gained last year has helped her to improve,” said Yeakel. “She is good out of the crease, she’s fast, and her clears have improved to 65-70 yards, but she needs to be the leader on defense.”
Other returners vying for playing time in the spring will be second-year Heather Licht, third-year Ede Carpenter, and second-year Brittany Strasdauskas. A low attacker, Coach Yeakel describes Licht as an athlete “who is unstoppable when she plays with confidence.”
Carpenter, who suffered a knee injury and took a medical red-shirt in 2004, did a great job defensively during the fall, and the coaching staff will look for her to be the team leader in the defensive midfield. Similarly, Strasdauskas, who missed much of last year due to a bout with mononucleosis, has since been playing strong, and will look to gain some experience in 2005.
Also competing for playing time on defense will be Deborah Catterton, who missed the 2004 season due to an ankle injury. However, since then, she has made a determined return to the field, and has been very aggressive on the defensive end.
For 2005, UMBC welcomes eight newcomers, including Ali Levendusky, Meghan Keelan, Sarah Wilkin, Bridget Gambino, Jordan Fewell, Lindyn Soviero, Maggie Chizmar, and Rebecca Stern.
Levendusky, who has a hard, fast outside shot and excellent stickwork, could be a starter on attack in 2005, while Yeakel hopes that Keelan, who is battling back from a knee injury, will be ready to contribute on the offensive end by mid-season.
Vying for playing time at midfield will be Wilkin, a second-year transfer from Lees-McRae. A quick and aggressive player, Yeakel says “she has provided what was missing from the Retriever midfield in 2004.” In addition, Gambino, a smart attacker who sees open spaces well and has the ability to set up goals, will see some playing time. “She is the hardest worker on the team,” said Yeakel. “She’s not flashy, but she never backs down, and gets the job done.”
Other first-years who look to see some time on the field include Fewell, and Soviero, who injured her knee at the end of her high school career. Both players have a lot of potential, and Yeakel hopes that they can return healthy and earn minutes during the season.
In addition, also competing for the first time this season will be Chizmar and Stern. Chizmar, a quick, tall, and strong athlete, has plenty of potential to be a great defender, while Stern, a Butler, Pa. native who has worked hard in the off-season, will try to earn some playing time behind Raab at the goalkeeper position.
Once again, the Retrievers have a tough schedule this year, facing some perennially strong teams such as Loyola, William & Mary, Old Dominion, and Towson, while opening the season with Virginia Tech. "Our tough schedule early in the season should help prepare us for conference play, as every game will definitely be a challenge,” said Yeakel. “I just want this season to be about being focused and playing tough. If we do that for each game, then we are already winners.”