After five years of building the women’s lacrosse program at Notre Dame, head coach Tracy Coyne and her 2002 team begin the new season in uncharted territory.
For the first time in the program’s history, the Irish go into the season ranked among the top 20 programs in the country. After turning in a 10-5 overall record and a 4-2 mark in the inaugural season of BIG EAST play, the Irish are ready to move among the nation’s top teams.
From the goal through midfield to the attack, the Irish are solid and have plenty of depth at each position, a culmination of hard work and strong recruiting by Coyne and assistant coach Danielle Gallagher.
The Irish return 11 starters from the 2001 team and will have to replace the school’s all-time leading scorer Lael O’Shaughnessy who led the team in scoring in each of the last three seasons. An All-BIG EAST selection in 2001, the senior attack standout led Notre Dame with 24 goals and 28 assists for 52 points.
Coyne also loses two valuable role players to graduation in Maura Doyle and Sarah LeSueur.
The strength of the 2002 Irish squad lies in its defense and midfield. From the goal, through the middle of the field, Notre Dame is deep and experienced.
In goal, Jen White (Jr., Annapolis, Md.) will again handle the bulk of the action. She moved into a starting role in 2001 and never looked back. White started all 15 games, turning in the best goals against average in school history (9.25) while having a .500 save percentage.
Backing her up will be freshman Carol Dixon (Pennsauken, N.J.) who was a standout high school goalkeeper at Moorestown Friends Academy. A first team all-county and all-league selection in high school, Dixon saw action in the fall and gained valuable experience. She gives the Irish women’s lacrosse program its second sister duo as she is the sister of two-time monogram winner, junior Angela Dixon.
“Our goalkeeping is in good hands with Jen White,” says Coyne. “She really came up big for us last season as a sophomore and she continues to improve her game. Carol (Dixon) provides us with a solid backup. She got to play a great deal in the fall and gained valuable experience.”
On defense, the Irish return their top three defenders who are each playing their final season at Notre Dame.
The big three at line defense are seniors Kathryn Lam (Plainsboro, N.J.), Tina Fedarcyk (Millersville, Md.) and Maureen Henwood (Marlton, N.J.).
Those three have been the backbone of Notre Dame’s defense for the past three seasons starting every game.
Lam begins her third year as a team captain and is the leader of the defense that set a school record in 2001 by limiting opponents to 9.53 goals per game. As a junior, Lam was second in ground balls (38) and draw controls (26). She was also Notre Dame’s first player selected to play on the U.S. National Team as a member of the developmental squad.
Fedarcyk joins Lam as a captain this season after being an All-BIG EAST selection as a junior and a 2002 preseason All-BIG EAST selection this spring.
Fedarcyk is an aggressive defender who is always around the ball and loves to play the game. The talented defender led the Irish in ground balls (42) and caused turnovers (30) in 2001.
Henwood rounds out the trio on Notre Dame’s back line. A fast, quick defender, Henwood moves the ball well and is strong in the Irish transition game.
“Our top three defenders have a great chemistry on the field,” explains Coyne.
“They’ve played together for three years now. They trust each other and know what the others will do in certain situations. They give us the ability to match up against opponents since they have the skill and talent to adapt to what the opposition wants to do.”
Right behind the three senior defenders are a trio of players who will see considerable playing time.
Leading the way is junior Elizabeth Knight (Baltimore, Md.) who is a solid, all-around defender who makes very few mistakes on the field. Now in her third season with the Irish, Knight knows the game and is good at moving the ball up field.
Sophomore Bridget Higgins (Wilton, Ct.) came on late in her first year and will be in the team’s regular rotation this season. A strong, aggressive defender, Higgins had a strong fall and continues to improve. Blessed with excellent defensive instincts, Higgins will continue to get experience and could break into the starting lineup before the season is over.
“Our depth and level of skill on defense continues to improve every year,” says Coyne.
“We now have the players, who can come in, give our top defenders a rest, while still playing at an intense level.”
At midfield defense, the Irish have good speed and depth. Leading this group are junior Kelly McCardell (West Chester, Pa.) and sophomore Kassen Delano (Alexandria, Va.).
McCardell is a two-time monogram winner who plays a solid, fundamental game. She grabbed 25 ground balls last season while scoring five goals with one assist. A confident player, she is a ready to become an impact player for the Irish.
Delano was the lone freshman to break into the starting lineup in 2001. An outstanding transition player with good quickness, Delano is strong on both sides of the ball. She scored 15 goals and added five assists for 20 points in her first season at Notre Dame.
Others who will be counted on to contribute at midfield defense are Andrea Kinnik (So., West Chester, Pa.), Abby Owen (So., Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.) and freshmen Jess Mikula (Chester, Md.), Maura Costello (Manhasset, N.Y.) and Lindsay Shaffer (Seneca Falls, N.Y.).
Kinnik played in six games as a freshman and continues to improve her game. Blessed with tremendous speed she is learning how to use it to her advantage on the field and gives the Irish a strong transition player off the bench.
Owen saw limited action as a freshman and just to become more consistent and confident in her abilities.
Mikula was a standout defender at St. Mary’s High School and joins Fedarcyk, White and Kristen Gaudreau on the Irish roster from the Maryland lacrosse power.
Mikula has the potential to be an outstanding collegiate lacrosse player and could work her way into Coyne’s regular rotation.
Costello and Shaffer give the Irish depth in the midfield. Both have shown outstanding work ethics and continue to adapt to the collegiate game.
The strength of the Irish offense comes from the midfield attack position. Here, the Irish return 91 of the 177 goals they scored in 2001.
Leading the midfield attack is junior Danielle Shearer (Hampstead, Md.) who led the Irish in goals with 35 and was second in points with 45 as a sophomore. Shearer has outstanding speed and quickness and the ability to beat an opponent one-on-one. A preseason All-BIG EAST selection this season, Shearer will be keyed on this year, which should open the field for several others to take advantage.
Senior captain Alissa Moser (North Wales, Pa.) is one of those who will be counted on to add to the Irish attack. Solid on both sides of the ball and excellent in the transition game, Moser will look to become more involved in the attack. She had 17 goals and four assists last season.
Natalie Loftus (Sr., Baltimore, Md.), Anne Riley (Jr., Marblehead, Mass.) and Meredith Simon (So., Flemington, N.J.) will also play a key role in the midfield attack.
Loftus played almost every minute of every game as a junior and was second in goals (28) and third in points (34) in 2001. A tireless worker, Loftus gives the Irish speed in the middle and another outstanding player in transition.
Riley started 13 of 15 games as a sophomore scoring eight goals with one assist and is ready to have a breakout season. The Massachusetts native combines size and speed and has the potential to be a dominant player.
Simon made the most of her playing time as a freshman working her way into the starting lineup. A tough, hardnosed player, Simon brings heart and intensity to the Notre Dame lineup. She scored 11 goals and had three assists for 14 points a year ago. She should develop into one of the team’s top midfield attack players in the years to come.
Depth in the midfield is without question one of the strengths of this year’s team.
Eleanor Weille (Jr., Garden City, N.Y.) is in her third year and played in 10 games last season with three goals and three assists. An athletic player, Weille gives Coyne flexibility since she can play a variety of spots in the lineup.
Senior Kate Scarola (Windsor, Conn.) played in 13 games and has been a key player off the Irish bench. A reliable reserve, Scarola has good stick skills and is a threat to score when she’s on the field.
Kate Marotta (So., Columbus, Ohio) saw no playing time as a freshman but made huge strides over the summer and fall and will be counted on this season. Adapting to the physical play at the collegiate level, Marotta has learned to beat opponents with her speed and quickness. She continues to improve all areas of her game.
Freshman Lisa Lombardi (Milton, Mass.) has plenty of potential and will work on making the transition to the collegiate game. Lombardi combines size and speed and adds to Irish mifield depth. She is a player that will be counted on in the future.
“There is no question that the strength of this team is at the midfield position. We have talent and depth at this spot which gives us a variety of options every game,” says Coyne.
The attack position is where the Irish will look to replace last season’s captain Lael O’Shaughnessy. A gifted scorer, O’Shaughnessy had 128 goals and 68 assists for 196 points in her four years at Notre Dame.
Several players will have the opportunity to move into her scoring spot in the lineup.
Senior Maureen Whitaker (Doylestown, Pa.) leads the group. A smart player, who has been valuable coming off the bench in recent years, Whitaker thinks offense all the time. After scoring six goals as a sophomore, she scored twice last season in three games.
Junior Angela Dixon (Pennsauken, N.J.) played in 11 games as a sophomore scoring three times while adding two assists. A gifted playmaker, she has always shown the knack for finding the open player. As her understanding of the game improves, Dixon has the ability to become a key player in Notre Dame’s offense.
Sophomore Lauren Fischer (Pitts burgh, Pa.) has moved into the mix in a short time. After a strong fall season, she has worked her way into a starting role in the Irish lineup. Fischer sees the field well and has a strong shot. She continues to improve her game every day and will become a key player this season.
Junior Julie Ravis (Pottstown, Pa.), sophomores Kristen Gaudreau (Annapolis, Md.) and Mia Novic (Murrysville, Pa.) and freshman Jackie Bowers (Springfield, Pa.) will all battle for playing time at the attack position.
Ravis has solid, fundamental skills and continues to develop her overall game. She saw action in two games as a sophomore and should be in the mix this season.
Gaudreau was a solid contributor as a freshman with good size and stick skills. A competitive player, Gaudreau continues to develop confidence in her game and is a spark for the Irish off the bench as she has the ability to create scoring chances on the field. She scored four goals in six games last season.
Novic is a member of the strong sophomore class who has plenty of natural ability. A hard working player, she has improved significantly from her rookie year when she scored a goal in two games last season.
Bowers is the lone freshman among the attack players and will use this season to adapt to the college game. The owner of a strong and accurate shot, Bowers has the potential to become a key player for the Irish in the future.
“Our line attack is young and we’ll be looking for players to step up their games to add to our offense this season,” says Coyne.
The Irish begin the 2002 season ranked 17th in the preseason after finishing 2001 ranked 18th in the nation. The goal is simple – win the BIG EAST and advance to the NCAA Tournament. To that end, Notre Dame will face its toughest schedule ever, featuring six BIG EAST Conference games, which includes tilts with national powers Georgetown and Syracuse. Outside the conference, the Irish will play the likes of Duke, Cornell, Yale, Delaware, Stanford and George Mason, all teams that finished 2001 ranked nationally.
“This is the toughest schedule we’ve ever played,” says Coyne, who was also the coach of the 2001 Canadian World Cup team.
“We are looking to build on last year’s success. The BIG EAST is very competitive and our non-conference schedule is very strong. Over the first five year, I believe we’ve built a solid foundation to compete at this level. I’m very excited for the coming season.”