STORRS, Conn. (Feb. 17, 2009) – Under first-year head coach Angela McMahon, the University of Connecticut lacrosse team begins the 2009 season at home this Saturday. The Huskies host Vermont in just the third meeting between the two teams for a 1 p.m. start at George J. Sherman-Family Sports Complex.
Saturday’s contest marks the commencement of the 2009 season for both teams and it is the first time since the 2007 season, UConn opens the year at home. This is the second-consecutive season that Connecticut has started the year against Vermont.
A majority of the team returns from a season ago, and will look to the leadership of team captains Kim McGinty, Whitney Michele and Lauren Sparks to take the new lessons learned this fall to the field this spring. Together with seniors Jamie Antonious, Lauren Duffy, Ashley Mitchelides, Meghan Nanfeldt and Katy Ryan, UConn lacrosse has the potential to surprise its opponents this season.
Newcomers Megan Lally, M.E. Lapham, Stephanie Norton, Amanda Pollock, Kiersten Tupper and Anna Wallingford bring a fresh perspective to Husky lacrosse. Each will compete for playing time as the season progresses while Wallingford will challenge for time in the net against the experience of veteran netminder, Jenna Moulton.
The student-athletes on the field may not have changed, but the drive and determination has in the preseason. An experienced squad brings an invaluable amount of leadership that will prove to be necessary to succeed on the field in 2009.
Not only has McGinty been charged with the role of a team captain, she is one of the veteran members of the UConn attack. She is one of four upperclassmen to return to the Husky lineup on attack and is just one of five team members to have started each game last season.
“I think she is a great leader on attack,” McMahon said. “McGinty is very poised and confident with the ability to evolve. She has the ability to score every time she has the ball.”
That is certainly a possibility as she is one of the top-returning scorers from a season ago having tallied 28 goals and six assists for a total of 34 points in 2008.
Mitchelides is the other member of the senior class to return to attack. She saw action in 12 games last season and was in the starting lineup twice.
“Mitchelides is an impact player on the attack who controls the pace of the game behind the net,” McMahon said.
Another player McMahon expects to be an impact player is transfer Tupper. Tupper joins the UConn offense from LeMoyne College and has the potential to see significant time on the field along with classmate Amanda Pollock.
Tupper and Pollock will add a new dimension to the Connecticut attack and provide the team with a new look on the field. Both have great game sense according to McMahon that will positively impact their more experienced counterparts.
“Tupper has the ability to put the ball exactly on the stick and has the ability to read and see the field well,” McMahon said. “She has great field vision behind the net.”
Katie Devaney returns to attack after inserting herself into the starting lineup as the 2008 season progressed. She was the fifth leading scorer last year and has the potential to be among the starters again in the upcoming season.
“In the midfield, we return a pair of leaders in Ryan and Michele who together are able to dominate both ends of the field,” McMahon said. “Jillian Cerar has a tremendous amount of speed and will be instrumental to the midfield as well.”
Ryan and Michele led the 2008 squad in scoring last season and accounted for 45 percent of the Husky offense. Michele led the team in scoring with 53 points from 31 goals and a team-best 22 assists. Ryan was the leader in goals (35) and added six assists to finish the year with 41 points.
Lauren Sparks scored three goals from the midfield last year and is among the upperclassmen to return with significant playing experience. Together with Eichert, a balance of experience and youth will be a defying characteristic of the Husky midfield in 2009.
Cerar, one of four sophomores in the midfield, had 11 points last season. Megan Bohns, Amy Kretovics and Kayla Maleski round out the sophomore class and will battle for playing time in 2009.
Rookies Lapham and Lally bring a youthful energy to the midfield this season and have the ability to bring their speed to both ends of the field consistently.
“Lally is an extremely athletic player and will definitely see time in the midfield as she continues to improve,” McMahon said. “Lapham also has the ability to make an immediate impact in her freshmen season.”
McMahon is also excited about Lally’s defensive prowess and sees her matching-up against the opposition’s top attacker because of her athleticism.
Also in transition, Carly Curran and Laura Eichert will work together to lead UConn from the offense to defensive side of the field.
Curran a leader on the defense last year will work with returning fifth-year senior Meghan Nanfeldt to lead UConn on the defensive end of the field.
“Nanfeldt is a veteran and is another poised leader joined by Antonious for our defense this season.”
Nanfeldt was second on the team with 21 groundballs while Antonious collected 10 and caused seven turnovers. Nanfeldt is one of six players to have caused more than 10 turnovers last year. Curran garnered playing experience in 12 games last year and was among the team’s starters in four contests.
“We have a very veteran defense this season,” McMahon said. “Adding to that experience will be our sophomores: Jessica Mucci and Kayla Maleski.”
McMahon believes both have great game sense and will immediately contribute to the defensive end.
Stephanie Norton’s work ethic both on and off the field is exemplary. McMahon finds Norton a pleasure to coach as a result. Her consistent improvement on the field this fall could translate to significant playing time this spring.
Moulton has been a consistent presence in the cage for Connecticut in her last two years having started every game in her career. The lone goalie on the 2008 squad, Moulton will now have competition to remain in the starting lineup. Wallingford, a freshman from Littleton, Colo., joins the Husky roster and will challenge the veteran netminder for playing time this year.
The lacrosse season began on the campus of the University of North Carolina at the South of the Border Tournament on Feb. 8. Saturday’s contest against Vermont marks the start of the season and the first home game before the Huskies hit the road for three-straight games. New Hampshire comes to Storrs on March 7 and a majority of the month continues on the field of the Sherman Sports Complex following an away game at Marist on the 10th.
McMahon looks to compete for a BIG EAST Championship and that challenge begins on March 14 with a conference season-opening game against defending BIG EAST Champion, Syracuse. The match also marks the start of a season-long home stand, during which the Huskies host Cincinnati (March 27) and Louisville (March 29). The Huskies also host non-conference opponents in Harvard and Brown.
The month of April is spent facing conference opponents for the most part and begins on the road at Loyola (Md.) on the third. UConn faces Georgetown in Washington, D.C. on April 5 before hosting Rutgers on April 11. The match against the Scarlet Knights is scheduled to take place at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. Holy Cross is the final non-conference opponent of the regular season with a match set on April 15.
The regular season wraps up on the road at Notre Dame on April 18. The BIG EAST championships will be hosted by Georgetown from April 24-26.