March 8, 1999
Entering its third year as a varsity program in the spring of 1999, the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team continues its climb toward national respect. The Irish welcome their second freshman class and return six of 12 starters to the young program, which continues its “metamorphosis from a club team to a varsity team trying to achieve national recognition,” according to Irish head coach Tracy Coyne.
“We are still in that transitional phase,” says Coyne. “It is the seniors from the old club team and the underclassmen. We finally have a core group of players returning who played a competitive schedule last year and are ready to take a step forward. We are much more competitive and athletic and have a better understanding of the game.”
Coyne will be working with 15 sophomores and freshmen and two players who were members of the club team, seniors Kerry Callahan and Megan Schmitt.
“The sophomores and freshmen are driving the team,” says Coyne. At the same time, we are depending on Kerry and Megan because they have been on the team for two seasons. In the past, we have been lacking players with college game experience but now we have that.”
The Irish showed signs of this progress a year ago with a 7-6 record and two wins over teams that had beaten Notre Dame during its inaugural 5-4 season in 1997. The Irish upended Ohio State 10-9 in ’98 after an 11-7 loss in ’97 and beat Davidson 18-11 after losing 21-8.
“Last year we played a more difficult schedule than our first year,” says Coyne “We started to realize what it takes to compete and recognize what it takes to be a tournament team. The schedule is much harder now.”
The ’99 Irish had a preview of the challenges of the more rigorous schedule in the fall, when they put their talents on display in a fall tournament.
“For the first time, we competed in the fall and played some tough teams,” says Coyne. “We played really well and that was a good sign. We focused on stick work and individual skills in the fall so when we focus more on team strategy in the spring, we will be better prepared to beat some of the teams that we struggled against in the past.”
In addition to the team’s successful results on the field, Coyne welcomed a shift in the team’s persona, evidence of the continuing transformation from the club to varsity team mentality.
“We’ve noticed changes this fall in the team’s attitude towards practice,” says Coyne. “They are very focused and not afraid to work hard. This has been the most intense fall that we’ve had. We are definitely pushing the team more, and they have been able to handle it.”
Notre Dame’s attack returns its top five scorers, led by senior Kerry Callahan. Callahan will serve as captain of the team for the second consecutive season and looks to spark the Irish attack once again, after leading the team in scoring a year ago with 30 goals and 20 assists for 50 points.
“Kerry is a very good leader,” says Coyne. “She has grown into a fine lacrosse player. She has come such a long way in the last two years. Kerry will be a big asset and have a significant impact on the success of our attack.”
Callahan, who was named the National Monogram Club team MVP a year ago, has scored in 21 of the 22 varsity women’s lacrosse games played at Notre Dame. She turned in a five-goal performance in Notre Dame’s 16-13 win at Stanford and also scored four against Syracuse.
Sophomores Lael O’Shaughnessy and Courtney Calabrese came in as freshmen and provided the Irish with much-needed immediate offense. The talented attackers each totaled 41 points in their freshman seasons and with a year of collegiate experience should be ready to provide the Irish with more offense this year.
“Lael has improved tremendously, is much more confident when she has the ball and can make things happen,” says Coyne. “Courtney has excellent variety, placement and power on her shots. She will score a lot of goals for us again.”
O’Shaughnessy scored 27 goals and dished off 14 assists, while Calabrese was the team’s highest goal scorer with 38, including a school-record seven in a 20-10 win over Gannon.
Sophomore Kathryn Perrella has a year of experience after finishing as the fourth-leading scorer last year. She scored five of her 13 goals in the 10-9 comeback win at Ohio State.
“We were happy with Kathryn’s progress in the fall and impressed with what she did,” says Coyne. “We are going to have a much stronger attack this year. The unit returns intact and has a better understanding of our system.”
Freshman Maureen Whitaker, who has refined her game during fall practice, also should add depth to the attack.
While the Irish attack unit remains set from last year, the midfield will look to a number of freshmen to fill some holes in the lineup. Sophomore Maura Doyle returns from a freshman season in which she played in all 13 games and started 12 games. She scored the final three goals to complete Notre Dame’s win at Ohio State and has become a tenacious defender.
“Maura is one of the most versatile players on the team,” says Coyne. “She can play anywhere in the midfield and can be equally effective at the offensive or defensive end.”
Freshmen Tina Fedarcyk and Maureen Henwood will give the Irish a major boost in the defensive midfield. Fedarcyk starred at St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis, Md., where she helped her team win the AIS league title over Notre Dame Prep. She has shown versatility in her game and has adjusted her play to the speed of the college game.
Henwood earned United States Women’s Lacrosse Association high school All-America honors at Cherokee High School in Marlton, N.J. Her speed and aggressive play will be a spark for the midfield.
Alissa Moser looks to begin her Notre Dame career in 1999 with immediate contributions in the attack midfield. Another USWLA high school All-American, Moser led her North Penn High School with 61 goals as a senior and was named the Philadelphia Inquirer’s player of the year.
Freshmen Natalie Loftus, Kimberly Rubeis and Katherine Scarola also should help the Irish in the midfield. Loftus adds to Notre Dame’s speed in the midfield and has made significant improvements in her game since the fall. Rubeis has good decision-making abilities and will be one of the key players off the bench. Scarola joined the team as a walk-on and has impressed the coaches with her finesse.
The Irish defense looks to improve upon the 12 goals allowed per game in 1998, returning two starters from that squad and welcoming two freshmen to the defensive mix. Senior Megan Schmitt started 10 games last year and has shown improvement in all areas of her game. She is a good communicator with the rest of the defensive unit and brings two years of experience to the defense.
Sophomore Sarah LeSueur started all 13 games in her freshman campaign, finishing second in the team with 37 groundballs and 21 caused turnovers. In addition to being an impact for the Irish defense, LeSueur will spark the Irish transition.
“We have a good mixture of experience and freshman on defense,” says Coyne. “Megan Schmitt and Sarah LeSueur will do a great job for us once again.”
Kathryn Lam should be one of the keys to the Irish defense this year. The USWLA high school All-American from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School in Plainsboro, N.J., represented the Garden State in the USWLA national tournament. Lam’s natural leadership qualities and strong work ethic make her a perfect fit for Coyne’s team.
Rachel Turk played in the USWLA national tournament for the Philly II team and twice was named team MVP for Wissahickon High School. She has made noticeable improvements since the fall and will be one of the team’s quickest low defenders.
Sophomore Carrie Marshall looks to take advantage of a year of college experience in the net and the guidance of first-year assistant coach Kathleen Ostar. Marshall started all 13 games as a freshman, making 127 saves while gaining valuable experience playing 629 minutes. Marshall has become more active outside the crease and more technically sound in goal under the tutelage of Ostar, who was the NCAA Division III national goalkeeper of the year in 1995 at Roanoke.
“Carrie has improved tremendously.” says Coyne. “Having Kathleen work with her is really a help to Carrie and will bring out the best in her. She played great at the end of last season, and that experience should help in this year.”