Feb. 13, 2009
Notre Dame, Ind. – The Notre Dame women’s lacrosse program moves into the 2009 season with the start of action on Saturday, Feb. 14 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Irish will be looking to build on a successful 2008 season, a campaign that saw them finish second in the BIG EAST with a 4-1 mark and host the BIG EAST Championships at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame was 12-7 overall and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in seven years, finishing the season ranked 12th in the final IWLCA polls.
In 2009, the Irish will look to go above and beyond their success of last year with goals for a successful season that include a BIG EAST Championship and advancing in the NCAA Tournament.
While Coyne has a strong cast returning this season, she does lose several key performers and will look to her returning player to fill key roles.
Five players were lost to graduation with that group including three-time All-American midfielder Caitlin McKinney, all-BIG EAST defender Becky Ranck, attack players Heather Ferguson and Julie Foote and defender Lindsey Ferguson. Joining that group are senior midfielders Alicia Billings and Jane Stoeckert who decided to sit out their final year of eligibility.
“We lost some key players both offensively and defensively – players who played major roles during their careers,” said Coyne.
“That just opens the door for several players to step up and take advantage of their opportunity to play. Last year’s freshman saw playing time mostly as role players. Now it’s their turn to step up into starting roles. Overall, we’ve improved our skill and talent level as we have multiple candidates for several positions.”
For four seasons, McKinney was the straw that stirred the Notre Dame attack. She finished her Notre Dame career as a three-time All-American, becoming the third Irish player to be named first team IWLCA All-American as a senior.
During 2008, the speedy midfielder was second in scoring with 38 goals and 25 assists for 63 points. The 2008 BIG EAST midfielder of the year, McKinney was a unanimous first team all-BIG EAST choice for the third consecutive year.
Notre Dame’s team most valuable player, McKinney closed her career ranked first in assists (80), second in points (232) and third in goals (152). Ranck, who joined McKinney as a team captain, was a second team all-BIG EAST and IWLCA all-West/Midwest regional selection as a senior.
The leader of the Irish defense, Ranck was a tough, hard-nosed player who brought a physical style to the back line. She finished the season with 30 ground balls and had 29 caused turnovers. Her caused turnover totals gave her 83 for her career to tie her for second in that category.
Heather Ferguson was a four-year regular on attack for the Irish and played in a school record 70 games along with McKinney during her career. The talented attack player had 18 goals as senior and finished her career with 57 goals and 35 assists for 92 career points.
Heather’s twin sister, Lindsey, joins Ranck as one of two defensive starters lost to graduation. In her first year as a regular on the Irish back line, Lindsey Ferguson proved to be a strong piece of the team’s defense. A smart player with a strong grasp of the defensive game plan, Lindsey chipped in 18 ground balls to go with five caused turnovers.
Foote closes out the group of graduating seniors and saw action off the bench on attack. She had three goals and an assist for four points in nine games. Billings was a key member of the defensive midfield and her speed and leadership will need to be replaced. She had 10 goals and three assists for 13 points and was fourth on the team with 27 ground balls.
Stoeckert saw duty at midfield and attack throughout her career and was a 20-goal scorer for the second consecutive year in 2008. Coyne’s 2009 team will be experienced in goal and on defense and youthful in the midfield and on attack as members of the highly touted sophomore class move into key roles.
Team defense starts in goal and the Irish have an established goalkeeper in senior Erin Goodman (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.).
A two-year starter in goal for the Irish, Goodman has improved in each of her first two seasons in the cage. Last season she played 1,117:21 minutes, going 12-7 on the year with a 10.74 goals-against average and a .462 save percentage. She also led the team with 41 ground balls. In two seasons between the pipes, Goodman has already recorded 23 wins, just eight off the Notre Dame record of 31. The senior goalkeeper shined in the big games for the Irish in 2008, guiding the team to upset wins at Duke and Georgetown while recording a career-best 15 saves in the triple-overtime loss to the Hoyas in the BIG EAST Tournament. She has size and quickness and will look to lead the Irish to big things in 2009.
Junior Amy Winik (Freehold, N.J.) waits in the wings behind Goodman and gives the Irish a solid back up in goal. She played in four games as a sophomore, seeing 39:53 minutes of playing time. She will look to push Goodman for playing time this year.
“Erin (Goodman) has played in big games for us and performed well and that counts for a lot,” said Coyne.
“She really committed to her offseason training this year and I hope that we’ll see the benefits of that. We really want to see Amy (Winik) challenge Erin for minutes this season. That kind of competition makes everyone better.”
Junior Rachel Guerrera is a tough, tenacious defender on the Irish women’s lacrosse team.
The Irish will rely on experience on defense as they return three starters from last season in seniors Shannon Burke (Timonium, Md.) and Beth Koloup (Phoenix, Md.) along with junior Rachel Guerrera (Wantagh, N.Y.). Joining the three returnees on defense this season is sophomore Lauren Fenlon (Dayton, Md.) who will be in the regular rotation.
Four freshmen join the defense and will look to gain experience while working themselves into the rotation. The group includes Megan Sullivan (Winchester, Mass.), Kelly Driscoll (Andover, Mass.), Jordy Shoemaker (Andover, Mass.) and Kristin DeRespiris (Locust Valley, N.Y.).
Burke will serve as one of the team’s captains in 2009 and is coming off her best season as a member of the Irish.
A second team all-BIG EAST selection and second team IWLCA West/Midwest regional team pick, she scored a career-high eight goals and added three assists for 11 points, but defense was where she excelled.
The Timonium, Md., native was second in draw controls (51), second in ground balls (33) and led Notre Dame with 32 caused turnovers as her size and strength allowed her to wreak havoc on the opposition’s attack.
Koloup stepped into the lineup a year ago in her first season as a starter and became a valuable contributor due to her speed and quickness. She grabbed 25 ground balls, had 31 draw controls and caused 11 turnovers. Like Burke, Koloup gives the coaching staff versatility as she can move between defense and midfield depending on the opponent and the situation.
Joining Koloup as a first-year starter in 2008 was Guerrera. A tough, tenacious defender, Guerrera was tough in front of the Irish goal and contributed 25 ground balls and 15 causes turnovers while facing some of the best offensive players in the nation.
Fenlon joins the group after seeing limited duty as a freshman. She returned for her second season in the best shape of her life and impressed the coaching staff during the fall and the preseason. Blessed with size and speed, she will be an impact on the Notre Dame defense this season.
The freshmen foursome brings speed and skill to the position but need to get playing time and experience at the Division I level.
Sullivan has impressed the coaches with her speed and quickness and showed a good grasp of the defense during the fall. A high school All-American, she also could see duty in the midfield.
Driscoll and Shoemaker played together at the same high school in Andover, Mass., and play a tough, tenacious style. They continue to work on their all-around games and will look to gain experience this season while pushing the players in front of them. DeRespiris is coming off a strong fall when she walked on to the team. She showed a good grasp of the game and continues to develop her game.
“We’ll look to our defense for leadership and a strong commitment with Shannon (Burke), Beth (Koloup) and Rachel (Guerrera),” said Coyne.
“Shannon has turned the corner with her game. She is a complete player who is capable of controlling the game and will be a key to our success this year. Beth is a fierce competitor with a driving will to win and a natural leader. Rachel has great feet and a great attitude. She continues to improve her game and is a nasty defender.”
Coyne continued, “We’ve got a good group of freshmen. Meg Sullivan was our best freshman defender in the fall. She has good quickness and speed and knows the game. Jordy (Shoemaker) and Kelly (Driscoll) have great upsides. They just need time to adapt to the Division I game. Kristin (DeRespiris) has worked hard and has shown potential.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Notre Dame is young but talented. The midfield features a fleet of sophomores who bring speed and quickness to the lineup. The loss of McKinney will be a key one that Coyne and her staff must fill. They have a group of four talented sophomores to choose from.
Leading the contingent is Shaylyn Blaney (Stony Brook, N.Y.) who will look to pick up where she left off as a freshman in 2008.
Recognized as one of the top newcomers a year ago, Blaney did not disappoint. She was second on the team with 43 goals and fourth in points with 52 on the year. Her rookie-year totals were second best for the Irish, trailing just Byers’ 54-goal, 24-assist, 78-point campaign during 2006.
Blaney was a second team all-BIG EAST selection in her rookie year and was a first team IWLCA West/Midwest Regional selection. She capped her rookie season with a career-best five-goal game in the BIG EAST Tournament versus Georgetown to earn all-tournament honors.
Joining Blaney in the sophomore class of midfielders are Kailene Abt (Huntington, N.Y.), Jackie Doherty (Ellicott City, Md.) and Kaitlin Keena (Vienna, Va.). Abt will be another player counted on to take on more responsibility in the midfield.
In 17 games as a freshman she had seven goals and two assists for nine points. She excels on the draw where she had 20 draw controls and the sky appears to be the limit for the Long Island native. Her all-around game continues to improve and she is effective at both ends of the field.
Doherty will see action in the defensive midfield where she played in 15 games last season, scoring six goals with one assist for seven points. A fierce competitor, Doherty has outstanding leadership skills and should be a force in Notre Dame’s transition game this season.
Keena brings blazing speed to the lineup and is coming off a solid freshman year with nine goals and nine assists for 18 points. Another key player in the Irish transition game, Keena joins Abt and Doherty as players who should have breakout years as regulars in the Notre Dame lineup.
Also joining the team in 2009 are four freshman midfielders. The group includes defensive midfielders Janel Carey (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Kate Newall (Middlesex, England) and midfield/attack players Amy Bernier (Strafford, Pa.) and Flannery Nangle (Auburn, N.Y.).
Of the four, only Newall will see action this season as the other three are out for the year with injuries suffered during the fall.
Newall is the first player from England to play for the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse program. She brings international experience to the team, as she was a member of England’s Under-19 team. A hard-working player, she has adapted quickly to Division I lacrosse. Newall has outstanding speed and quickness and will continue to work on her game.
Carey is a walk-on player who made the team after a strong fall. She injured her knee and required surgery that will keep her out of the lineup this spring. Bernier and Nangle are a pair of midfielders who brought speed and skill to the lineup. Both were in the midst of excellent fall seasons when they went down with injuries. Bernier has good stick skills and is strong in transition. Nangle was a high school All-American with an excellent shot and a nose for the net. Bernier went out with a shoulder injury and Nangle suffered an injured knee. Both will return in 2010.
“Caitlin McKinney is a big loss who will be tough to replace. She was an integral part of our offense in bringing the ball up the field and making plays in transition,” said Coyne.
“With the players we have returning, we will be able to spread out that responsibility this year. Our sophomores had a strong fall and are all ready to step in and contribute.”
“Shaylyn (Blaney) is an elite player and an outstanding competitor who we have high expectations for this season. She has a passion for the game that drives her to be one of the best. Kailene (Abt) just keeps getting better every day. She will play a key role for us in the midfield on the draw. She’s got a good shot and can play at both ends of the field. Kaitlin (Keena) gives our midfield outstanding speed to make things happen. She will be a key to our transition game. Jackie (Doherty) had a phenomenal fall; everything is starting to fall into place for her. She has great defensive instincts and is such an outstanding competitor,” added the Irish head coach.
Notre Dame’s attack returns two of the team’s top scorers in senior captain Jillian Byers (Northport, N.Y.) and junior Gina Scioscia (Summit, N.J.). Looking to join that duo on attack are sophomore Ansley Stewart (Alexandria, Va.), junior Maggie Zentgraf (Charlottesville, Va.) and freshman Maggie Tamasitis (Fr., Boyertown, Pa.). Sophomore Meredith Locasto (Pittsburgh, Pa.) rounds out the attack roster.
Byers keys the Notre Dame offense as she is on the verge of shattering every Notre Dame offensive record. A three-time, second-team All-American, she led the way in 2008 with 67 goals and 14 assists for 81 points. That made her the first Notre Dame player to score 50 or more goals in her career in three straight seasons. A unanimous all-BIG EAST selection for the third consecutive year, the Northport, N.Y., native had 12 games with four or more points and nine games with four or more goals on the season.
Midway through her junior year, Byers became Notre Dame’s all-time leading goal scorer, passing Crysti Foote `06, finishing the season with 179 career goals. She will become Notre Dame’s all-time leading point producer early in her senior year as she starts the year just 12 points behind Foote (225 to 237) in that category. “Jill (Byers) is the key to our offensive attack. She is a proven scorer who knows how to make plays and finish her chances. She is the team leader and her teammates respond to her,” said Coyne.
Junior Gina Scioscia is the playmaker on the Notre Dame attack. She led the Irish with 35 assists last season.
From her spot on attack and in her first season as a starter, Scioscia recorded 55 points, scoring 20 goals while her 35 assists were the second-best single-season total in the program’s history.
As a freshman in 2007, the Summit, N.J., native saw limited action, picking up just eight points (4g, 4a). Her 47-point improvement was the largest jump ever for an Irish player.
Her season included 14 games with three or more points, including a seven-point game (2g, 5a) versus Rutgers. Her career-assist total of 39 is already the eighth most in Irish history.
“I thought that Gina (Scioscia) and Jill (Byers) had good chemistry last season and I expect them to continue this season,” said Coyne.
“Gina is a play-making wizard with great instincts around the cage. She is playing with confidence which should help her try to score more and that will make her an important contributor this season.”
Coyne and her staff have several options for the third attack spot. Leading the way heading into the season is Stewart who has taken advantage of her opportunity to play. She brings a variety of shots to the attack and has shown the ability to take advantage of her size to make plays around the goal. Stewart saw action in just two games as a freshman.
“Ansley (Stewart) came back in great shape and has shown a tremendous work ethic in the fall and the preseason. She is ready to make the next step and use her skills to contribute to the attack,” Coyne commented.
Zentgraf brings versatility to the lineup and will see action on attack or in the midfield. She played in 12 games last season, notching a goal and two assists, but is ready to take on a bigger role in the offense. The junior has the ability to make plays by setting up a teammate or scoring on her own.
“Maggie (Zentgraf) also has shown that she is ready to step in and compete. She is an all-around player who gives us options because of her versatility that will allow us to use her at either midfield or on attack. I’m excited about what she can do,” said Coyne.
Tamasitis is the lone freshman on the attack and scoring goals is her specialty. As a high school All-American last season she scored over 90 goals and finished her career with 299 career goals at Boyertown High School. She owns strong stick skills and the ability to catch in tight spots and finish which should get her into the offensive rotation in her rookie year.
“Maggie (Tamasitis) is ready to play now. She has excellent game sense and instincts and like Zentgraf, gives us options as she can either make plays from the midfield or score for us off the attack,” said Coyne.
Locasto joins the attack after playing defense as a freshman. She continues to develop her game and should see playing time off the bench.
“Meredith (Locasto) made the move to attack this year and has shown a willingness to work hard and a tenacious style of play,” said Coyne.
“She understands her role and is a positive member of the team.”
The 13th season of Notre Dame women’s lacrosse is upon us. The Irish are young and there are bound to be growing pains while the underclassmen adapt to their new roles. Notre Dame has enough of a veteran presence that should help them get over the hump early in the season.
The Irish will face a tough schedule that features six teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season and eight teams that are ranked in the preseason. The BIG EAST has expanded with the additions of Louisville and Cincinnati. With teams like Syracuse and Georgetown ranked among the top teams in the nation, the Irish face key challenges in the conference, but they are ready.
“We have a challenging schedule this season and will need everyone to step up,” said Coyne as her team prepared for the season opener.
“We have a solid team here with a group that is committed to having a good year. We will be young but have a hunger and enthusiasm for the coming season. I’m looking forward to getting started.”