2001 Women's Lacrosse Outlook
It's a good thing when the head coach is disappointed in a 10-7 record and a third consecutive league title.
It's even better when eleven starters return from that team as UMBC women's lacrosse prepares for a very important 2001 season. This season carries more significance than previous years because the winner of the NEC Tournament will receive the league's first automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
"It will be difficult for our staff and players to not look ahead to the NEC's or, possibly, the NCAA's," said fifth-year Head Coach Monica Yeakel. "I won't allow the team to talk about the NEC's or NCAA's until we get there. We need to keep focused on the present."
In 2000, the Retrievers won their third consecutive Northeast Conference title, extending their winning streak vs. NEC opponents to 21 straight without a loss. For the second straight year, they defeated a ranked foe, edging #11 George Mason, 13-11. But tough losses to Loyola, Towson, and American and a second half collapse vs. William & Mary did not sit well with the Retriever mentor.
"We were just inconsistent, that was probably the biggest disappointment. We worked hard, but just played too up and down," said Coach Yeakel.
Even though many of the cast members will be the same as last season, Coach Yeakel feels that her first recruiting class becoming seniors will have a dramatic effect on the 2001 team. This group of nine seniors, which includes eight starters, asserted themselves in the fall, and their leadership will be critical to a team perched on the doorstep of national prominence.
Four of those seniors are the backbone of the Retriever defense. Goalie Amy Jagoda has started all 53 games over the past three seasons and is second on the UMBC all-time saves list with 653. A tireless worker, the Second Team All NEC member has improved her abilities out of the cage, and has always frustrated the opposition with numerous one-on-one stops. Point Katie Pickett (6g, 1a, ‘00) is a two-year starter, whose tremendous field awareness earned her a few starts at first home last season. But the Broadneck HS grad is back protecting the Retriever cage in 2001, and has classmates Michelle Clancy and Molly Buzdygon at cover point and third man respectively to help slow some potent offenses UMBC will face. Clancy is a two-time NEC All Conference selection who is at or near the top of the Retriever ground ball charts every year. Buzdygon became a more consistent force in 2000, and the aggressive defender will be given more chances to pressure the ball in her senior season.
Sophomore Kristin Lucido and freshman Kelly Reese provide depth for UMBC on defense.
Supporting those defenders on the wings will be senior Kim Brown (5g, 2a, ‘00) and junior Beth Milani (10g, 3a, ‘00). Both players have outstanding speed and are very capable of contributing on both ends of the field. Brown will earn her seventh UMBC letter (4 in basketball, 3 in lacrosse) this spring, while Milani, a Second Team All NEC selection, has 24 career goals, despite playing primarily a defensive role.
The Retriever midfield carried the load offensively in 2000. Juniors and First Team All NEC members Ashley Staines (43g, 3a) and Jamie Gerhart (33g, 10a) each amassed 46 points, while senior center Julie Dorney (27g, 10a) was third on the squad in scoring. Staines, the NEC Tournament MVP, scored a tournament mark with eight goals in the semi-finals vs. Sacred Heart. She possesses outstanding speed and improved her shooting efficiency by nearly 10 percent last season. Gerhart became a full-time starter in 2000, and responded well in big games, with hat tricks vs. Loyola, Richmond, and the 13-12 win over Monmouth in the NEC title game. Dorney had a solid season, but it ended a handful of minutes prematurely, as she tore her ACL in the title game vs. Monmouth. She is expected to be back at full strength in the spring.
Sophomores Lauren Traber (3g) and Stephanie Allen (4g, 1a) and freshman Lauren Hess could also see significant playing time in the midfield. All three could step in and play center if Dorney is not 100 percent and each is expected to fulfill starting roles in the near future. Junior Devon Pierce and freshmen Jessica Hall and Emily Sawyer round out a deep Retriever midfield.
Coach Yeakel was pleased to see much more efficiency out of the attack unit in the fall. Senior Renee Tirocchi (24g, 7a), a First Team All NEC selection and the league's Outstanding Scholar Athlete last season, should receive improved support from senior Amanda Eldridge, junior Shannon Gallup and freshman Jen Dragoni. Eldridge (9g, ‘00) has 74 career points and was a standout at first home in the fall. Like Gerhart, Gallup is a "gamer", who seems to save her best for big games with four points each vs. Richmond and Monmouth. Dragoni will take the spot of senior and fellow Ridley HS (PA) grad Loree Miller, who suffered a torn ACL in the fall, and will red-shirt this season. Dragoni was a three-sport standout at Ridley, and displayed great field awareness and finishing skills in the fall.
Senior Angie Fox, junior Wendy Ison (4g, ‘00), sophomore Kelly Bloh (3g, ‘00), and freshmen Jessica Ryan and Erika Brown will also battle for time up front.
UMBC will face national powers Loyola and Virginia and tough regional foes in George Mason, Old Dominion, Towson, American, and Richmond, in addition to its NEC schedule. Moreover, the Retriever have a date with six-time defending national champions, Maryland, on March 21. "We must realize that the top teams we play now have always worked just as hard as we do," said Coach Yeakel. "The hard part now is to play a better brand of lacrosse against the top teams."
I think this team has developed the mentality that it's not okay to lose. That tremendous desire to want to win the NEC's and make something happen in the NCAA's is here now--from everybody associated with our program."