BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh women’s lacrosse team is into week two of preseason practice as the Mountain Hawks prepare for their season opener against Wagner on Feb. 15. The Mountain Hawks feature a core of key returning players led by 2013 All-Patriot League honorees Carli Sukonik and Lauren Willcox, both juniors. The preseason features much more than just practice; a significant piece is speed (conditioning) sessions with strength and conditioning coach Eric Markovcy.
The Mountain Hawks began practice last week coinciding with the start of spring classes at Lehigh.
“We’ve seen great weather,” said Lehigh head coach Jill Redfern. “Whenever you have January weather that doesn’t impede your progress, it’s great for our team. The team came back fairly fit and ready to go. Our practices have been strong. We’ve been keeping them rather short to preserve our bodies because it’s a long season. We’re encouraged by how the team came back and the progress they’re making.”
Lehigh looks to bounce back from a tough 2013 campaign. The Mountain Hawks went 4-12, but did earn big victories over Villanova, Binghamton, Bucknell and Howard.
Despite being limited to 11 games, Sukonik finished last season with 28 points behind 25 goals and three assists. Sophomore Megan Paytas had 11 goals and 11 assists as a freshman while Kendall Garden posted 13 goals and three assists in her rookie campaign.
“I think the most important thing we need to focus on is our attacking game and upping our production offensively,” said Redfern. “We still have a young unit on that end. Although we had a really nice fall, the spring is different. Scouting report comes into effect every game and people know our personnel. Getting our group to really have some good cohesion and getting some of our young scorers in the production column is really important.”
Lehigh’s roster features seven freshmen who look to contribute. Co-captains Alexandra Fitzpatrick (senior) and Kelly Scott (junior) have emerged as team leaders.
One of the team’s top performers early this fall is junior Michelle Abramczyk, who is among a strong junior class of eight.
“We definitely have a young team, but our juniors have been playing together for a while now,” she said. “I think having that core group and the freshmen coming in and seeing our work ethic is important. Just coming to practice every day, getting it done. Seeing the progress we’ve made from the fall until now has been huge.”
“Michelle has improved every year and is having a terrific preseason so far,” said Redfern. “She’s started since she was a freshman, but her game has really shown great improvements and we’re looking for her to have a terrific year. Some of our sophomores clearly got a lot of experience last year as freshmen. Nicole Isdaner, Kris Abens, Megan Paytas and Kendall Garden all look much stronger, better and more confident and ready to contribute.”
“Right now, we’re just trying to focus on us – talking, communication and the basics,” said Abramczyk. “Then we’ll get into figuring out our opponents, seeing what their strengths are and working from there.”
The Mountain Hawks open their season on Feb. 15 against Wagner at 12 p.m. Lehigh plays its first three games at home before hitting the road for the first time Mar. 1 at New Hampshire.