June 14, 2012

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LM Early Offseason Top 15 (WD1 Nos. 5-1)

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

Emily Garrity (22) is the Tar Heels' top returning shooter (60 percent). Kara Cannizzaro (15) also comes back.
© Greg Wall

With the 2012 season still rattling around our minds, Lacrosse Magazine decided to take a fresh, early offseason look at next year's potential top 15 teams. What are their strenghts, weaknesses and question marks lingering over the summer? Fifteen though 11 debuted Tuesday and 10-6 on Wednesday. Now it's time for our top 5.

Note: These lists do not reflect or indicate LM's official preseason rankings for 2013.

5. North Carolina (15-4)

2012 Preseason Rank: 3
2012 Final Regular-Season Rank: 5
Key Returnees: Abbey Friend (52g, 8a), Kara Cannizzaro (42g, 10a, 26gb, 23ct), Brittney Coppa (26gb, 35dc, 12ct), Emily Garrity (18g, 13a, 27gb, 31dc, 19ct)
Key Losses: Laura Zimmerman (44g, 21a, 31gb), Becky Lynch (42g, 21a, 47dc)

  • Did the Tar Heels actually play tougher this year? Head coach Jenny Levy said her team needed to get more physical this year, especially in light of being eliminated from the 2011 semifinal by an extremely tough Northwestern team. By the numbers, North Carolina did mix it up a bit more. In 2011, the Tar Heels had 441 fouls and 24 yellow cards. In 2012, they had 503 fouls and 31 yellow cards, increases of 14 percent and 29 percent respectively. But they missed the semifinals for the first time since 2008.
  • Who's the team's best shooter? North Carolina's offense is built around finding high-percentage shots and it shows in the stats – the team's overall shooting percentage was .505. Still, it takes skill to bury those goals, and Lynch put an impressive .618 percent of her shots in the back of the net. Garrity will be the top returning shooter (.600 percent) and Friend isn't far behind (.553).
  • Will the Tar Heels ever win the big one? North Carolina's program is 17 years old and the Tar Heels have finished over .500 16 times. They've had 14 NCAA tournament bids, six semifinal appearances and one championship game (an embarrassing 21-7 loss to the Wildcats in 2009). For fans of the program, or for lacrosse fans who'd just like to see a first-time champion for the first time since 1994, it's frustrating to watch the Tar Heels come up just short so many times.

4. Maryland (19-4)

2012 Preseason Rank: 2
2012 Final Regular-Season Rank: 4
Key Returnees: Katie Schwarzmann (72g, 22a, 31gb, 52dc, 17ct), Alex Aust (44g, 52a), Iliana Sanza (46gb, 35dc, 33ct)
Key Losses: Kari Ellen Johnson (54g, 18a, 78dc), Kristy Black (38g, 23a), Brittany Dipper (.475 sv %)

  • Who replaces Dipper in the goal? Three-year starter Dipper graduates, and the starting spot is up for grabs for Kasey Howard and Becky Clipp. Both of them played sparingly behind Dipper, but will have the benefit of a veteran defense. Sanza, Melissa Diepold and Shanna Brady all return.
  • Who replaces Johnson on the draw? When Johnson was injured for the latter half of 2011, Beth Glaros took over and acquitted herself well. Glaros missed much of 2012 with a torn ACL but is expected to be healthy for 2013.
  • Can Schwarzmann break Maryland's all-time goal record? She's close, but it would be tough for her to beat Jen Adams' 267 career goals. Schwarzmann currently has 170 total goals. If she scored at the same rate she did in 2012 (3.13 gpg) and the Terps play the same number of games (23), Schwarzmann would get 72 goals in 2013, giving her a career total of 242. 242 would put her in second place on Maryland's all-time career list. She'd need 4.26 gpg as a senior to get to 268 and top Adams. Not impossible, but not likely for the 2012 Tewaaraton Award winner.
Florida's Mikey Meagher was the only goalie that played championship weekend to finish with a save percentage over .500. She and the Gators again reap the benefits of being a start-up program, as they lose no players from last year's team.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

3. Florida (19-3)

2012 Preseason Rank: 5
2012 Final Regular-Season Rank: 3
Key Returnees: Kitty Cullen (45g, 24a), Brittany Dashiell (44g, 25a, 46dc, 31gb), Nora Barry (48gb, 49dc), Shannon Gilroy (44g, 83dc), Sam Farrell (41gb, 17ct), Gabi Wiegand (47g), Mikey Meagher (.537 sv%)
Key Losses: None. (No seniors on the team.)

  • How bad does that semifinal collapse against Syracuse hurt? Real bad. It will serve the Gators well as a motivational tool. Florida dropped a 2011 quarterfinal to Duke and it was their impetus to crush Penn State, 15-2, en route to the program's first final four.
  • How good is goalkeeper Mikey Meagher? She was the only goalie who played significant minutes on championship weekend to finish with a save percentage over .500, and it was well over -- .574 percent. If Meagher hadn't made 10 saves in the first half against Syracuse, the Gators wouldn't even have been in the game. She finished the season with .537 save percentage and was a first team All-American. Florida's defense was No. 1 in the nation, allowing just 6.55 goals per game.
  • How balanced is the Florida attack? The Gators know how to share the ball. Wiegand is goals leader with 47, but there are five other players who scored at least 40 goals. Opponents never know where the shots are coming from, which is why Florida scored 15.32 gpg. The whole unit returns for 2013, too.

2. Syracuse (19-4)

2012 Preseason Rank: 14
2012 Final Regular-Season Rank: 2
Key Returnees: Alyssa Murray (74g, 31a, 22dc), Michelle Tumolo (52g, 43a, 16ct), Becca Block (34 gb, 47gb), Kailah Kempney (37g, 90dc)
Key Losses: Janelle Stegeland (22gb, 11ct), Sarah Holden (36g, 8a), Jill Cammett (17gb, 11ct)

  • Did the goalie platoon work? It worked pretty well, all things considered. Syracuse finished with a 9.00 GAA. Alyssa Costantino emerged as the regular starter but Kelsey Richardson played in 17 of 23 games, usually as halftime relief. With the graduation of Stegeland and Cammett, the Orange might need a more consistent presence in the cage in 2013, though.
  • Did Murray score 74 goals because defenses overcommitted to Tumolo? Syracuse's Tewaaraton finalist draws a lot of attention, but Murray is an excellent player in her own right. She finished the season with 105 points, and her goal and point totals led not only the Orange, but all of Division I.
  • Do you have to lose one to win one? Head coach Gary Gait said no, when asked after the Orange's loss to Northwestern in the title game: "You have opportunities and you need to step up...You want to just give yourself a chance and now we have experience for the future."

1. Northwestern (21-2)

2012 Preseason Rank: 1
2012 Final Regular-Season Rank: 1
Key Returnees: Erin Fitzgerald (56g, 9a), Casey Bocklet (13g, 22a), Taylor Thornton (33g, 58gb, 28ct, 71dc), Alyssa Leonard (90dc).
Key Losses: Shannon Smith (66g, 28a), Lacey Vigmostad (15g, 41gb, 29ct), Alex Frank (42gb, 36ct), Brianne LoManto (20gb, .456 sv%)

  • Who replaces Shannon Smith on the crease? In the 2012 championship game, Bocklet ran interference for Smith when the latter was being tightly face-guarded and acquitted herself well. She will be the Wildcats' top returning feeder with 22 assists, even though she only started four games. Bocklet is the youngest of four in a lax-y family – brothers Mike (Fairfield), Matt (Johns Hopkins) and Chris (Virginia) all played Division I lacrosse.
  • Who replaces three-year starter LoManto in the cage? Bridget Bianco will likely become the Wildcats' starting keeper. She played sparingly as a freshman but had an excellent high school career with New Jersey powerhouse program Moorestown, where her career goals against average was 4.8. Quakers coach Deanna Knobloch called her "the best high school goalie I've ever seen."
  • Where is Taylor Thornton most needed? Thornton was the 2011 IWLCA Defender of the Year, but in 2012, head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller asked her to pump up her offensive game. She more than doubled her points total from 15 to 34. But with the graduation of Vigmostad and Frank, and a new keeper adjusting to her starting role, shuffling the All-American back to D might be an enticing option.

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