February 6, 2012

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Season Preview: NCAA Division I Women's Nos. 11-20

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

Syracuse returns its top five scorers from last season, including sophomore attacker Alyssa Murray whose 43 points was third on the team behind Michelle Tumolo (63) and Tee Ladouceur (54).
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

We're counting down our preseason top 20 women's teams on LaxMagazine.com, beginning with a look at Nos. 11-20. Check back for in-depth previews on our top 10 throughout the week.

11 James Madison

2011 Record: 15-4 (6-1 CAA) Power Ratings: Offense 4, Defense 4, Goalkeeping 2, Draw 4

Junior attacker Casey Ancarrow (43g, 16a) has an outside shot that's reminiscent of her Team USA cohort, Caitlyn McFadden. She will be the heart of the Dukes' offense this season. With seven seniors who were full-time starters last season, including defender Cally Charkrian (42 DC, 17CT, 25 GB) and attacker Monica Zabel (27a), James Madison may finally have experience and maturity on its side. The Dukes lost just four games last season, including two by just one goal.

12 Penn

2011 Record: 11-6 (6-1 Ivy) Power Ratings: Offense 2, Defense 4, Goalkeeping 4, Draw 3

When you think Penn, you think defense. So how is it that there are only four true defenders on the Quakers' roster, two of whom are freshmen? The answer is that everyone at Penn plays defense, especially midfielders like Meredith Cain (22g, 12 CT) and Maddie Poplawski (43 DC) and even attackers like Caroline Bunting (21g, 9a, 18 CT). The only two seniors on the team, two-time All-American and leading scorer Erin Brennan (34g, 18a) and talented goalie Emily Leitner (9.437 sv pct), went to the final four as freshmen in 2009, when the Quakers fell in overtime to Northwestern in one of the most dramatic NCAA tournament games in history. They'd like to finish their careers on a high note.

13 Dartmouth

2011 Record: 11-5 (6-1 Ivy League) Power Ratings: Offense 3, Defense 3, Goalkeeping 4, Draw 3

Dartmouth showed some flashes of brilliance last season, such as when the Big Green upset then-undefeated Maryland, 9-8, in overtime. The details of that game hint at what 2012 will be like in Hanover. Midfielder Sarah Plumb (22g, 13a) assisted attacker Sarah Parks (16g, 14a) connected on the game winner — the two seniors are now the top returning scorers. Ivy League Rookie of the Year Kristen Giovanniello made 11 saves in the win. She's back to improve upon her .505 save percentage.

14 Syracuse

2011 Record: 10-8 (7-1 Big East) Power Ratings: Offense 5, Defense 2, Goalkeeping 2, Draw 2

The 2012 Syracuse offense should be a sight to see. Head coach and lacrosse legend Gary Gait hired women's national team player and all-around attack wizard Katrina Dowd as an assistant. The Orange returns its top five scorers, too, so by midseason, attackers like Michele Tumolo (30g, 33a) and Tee Ladouceur (36g, 18a) will be shooting behind their heads, between their legs and out their eyeballs as Gait and Dowd tease out their natural creativity. The Orange will need the points, too, if it wants to get back into the NCAA tournament. Last year's defense allowed 10.22 goals per game and longtime goalie Liz Hogan has graduated.

15 Penn State

2011 Record: 10-8 (3-2 ALC) Power Ratings: Offense 2, Defense 3, Goalkeeping 4, Draw 2

Sophomore attacker Mackenzie Cyr (12g, 23a) led her team in assists as a freshman, but she'll have to find some new targets in 2012, as the top five goal scorers have graduated. Seniors Theresa Zichelli (11g) and Aly Adams (14g) are likely candidates. The offense will have a chance to find its groove thanks to senior goalie Dana Cahill, a second-year starter who posted a .466 save percentage in 2011. Expect immediate contributions from freshman midfielder Tatum Coffey, a member of the gold medal-winning 2011 U.S. U19 team.

16 Vanderbilt

2011 Record: 8-8 (1-4 ALC) Power Ratings: Offense 3, Defense 2, Goalkeeping 2, Draw 4

Senior midfielder Ally Carey (29g, 11a) is always mentioned in player of the year discussions, and rightly so. The midfielder ranked in the top 10 nationally in ground balls (60), draw controls (59) and caused turnovers (32). But don't sleep on senior attacker Courtney Kirk (26g, 27a), who was Vanderbilt's overall points leader in 2011. Defense was the Commodores' weakness last season (10.38 goals allowed per game). Head coach Cathy Swezey benched her starting goalie Natalie Wills (.330 sv pct) in favor of Chelsea Pasfield (.422) midseason. With experience, Pasfield and sophomore defender Alyssa Dunlap, who started every game as a freshman, might be the solution to the problem.

17 Georgetown

2011 Record: 9-8 (7-1 Big East) Power Ratings: Offense 2, Defense 2, Goalkeeping 2, Draw 3

The Hoyas lost a lot to graduation. Attacker Jordy Kirr, the program's all-time assists leader, was the only Hoya ever to tally both 100 goals and 100 assists. No other returning player on the team was even in double digits in assists last season, so head coach Ricky Fried will need to find a new quarterback. Fortunately, leading scorer Sophia Thomas (37g) returns. Junior Barb Black struggled in her first season as a starter in 2011 (.316 sv pct). She now has the benefit of a year of experience but junior Ashley Hunter is the only starter who returns on defense.

18 Notre Dame

2011 Record: 10-9 (6-2 Big East) Power Ratings: Offense 3, Defense 2, Goalkeeping 3, Draw 2

Top goal scorer Shaylyn Blaney is gone, but the attack is in good hands with senior attacker Maggie Tamasitis (21g, 46a) and standout sophomore midfielder Kaitlyn Brosco (32g, 8a). Blaney will be missed more at the midfield — she and fellow grad Jackie Doherty combined for 34 percent of the Irish's draw controls and 45 percent of the caused turnovers. Sophomore middie Margaret Smith (21 DC) has big shoes to fill. Of course, the biggest change for the Irish came on the sidelines, where head coach Christine Halfpenny, formerly of William and Mary, takes over. Tracy Coyne led the Irish for 16 years. Halfpenny will need to make the program her own.

19 Albany

2011 Record: 18-1 (6-0 America East) Power Ratings: Offense 3, Defense 2, Goalkeeping 3, Draw 2

The Great Danes lost their top two scorers from the team that made an unexpected run to the second round of the NCAA tournament, but sophomore midfielder Ariana Parker and senior attacker Rachel Burek are talented shooters who will step up as needed. Nikki Branchini and her staggering 100 draw controls will be harder to replace. Sophomore goalie Anna Berman (6.82 GAA, .463 sv pct) had an extraordinary freshman year and returns as a second-year starter. Albany plays a tough out-of-conference schedule with three nonconference top-10 opponents (North Carolina, Boston College and Stanford), so the Great Danes will be battle-tested by the postseason.

20 Harvard

2011 Record: 10-6 (5-2 Ivy League) Power Ratings: Offense 3, Defense 2, Goalkeeping 2, Draw 3

Head coach Lisa Miller spent 10 years at Syracuse building the Orange into a national power; she appears to be doing the same thing with the Crimson. She's in her fifth season at Harvard, and her team's 10 wins in 2011 were the most since 1994. The Crimson graduated only one senior and returns its top scorer, junior attacker Jennifer VanderMeulen (48g). The midfield is solid with Danielle Tetrault (29 DC) and Melanie Baskind (33 GB). If the defense can tighten up, Harvard might be a dark horse to steal the Ivy League title.


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