Bethlehem, PA – It’s a new Lehigh women’s lacrosse team in 2012. After having veteran squads throughout the past few seasons, the Mountain Hawks feature a powerful freshman class that is expected to make an impact in their first season with the team. Lehigh also returns a number of talented upperclassmen, led by captains Leigh Ann Torcivia and Julie McBrien. The Mountain Hawks hope to hit their stride early in the season as they pursue a sixth-straight Patriot League Tournament appearance and aim to capture the league title.
“The coaching staff sees how much potential this team has,” said Lehigh head coach Jill Redfern. “They’re hard-working and determined. We will have to wait and see how this season unfolds, but we are confident that this group has what it takes to be a very special squad.”
The team has hit the ground running this preseason.
“The girls are having fun because they’re investing so much into their daily performance,” said associate head coach Kelley Necioglu. “It’s been by far our most competitive preseason. It’s going to prepare us for the season better than it has before.”
Leading the way in goal will be sophomore Alexandra Fitzpatrick, who’s coming off a stellar rookie campaign in which she was named First Team All-Patriot League. Her 50.6 save percentage led the league while standing third best in the nation. She had five games with double-digit saves, including a career-high 16 stops (while only allowing six goals) in a dominant effort at Temple.
“We’re looking forward to Alex starting for the second year in the cage and expect big things out of her,” said Redfern.
Junior MaryLeah DiNisco will be a dual threat for the Mountain Hawks as she returns in her goalkeeping role, while also challenging for playing time on defense. Freshman Allison Fayans should challenge to be the top relief option for the Mountain Hawks in her first season in Bethlehem.
The Mountain Hawks expect to feature a strong defensive unit in 2012, with three freshmen in the starting mix, including Michelle Abramczyk, Kelly Scott and Lauren Willcox.
“The anchor for them back there will be [sophomore] Alex Fitzpatrick,” said Redfern. “Overall, they’re a really athletic group so we’re excited for them in the back.”
Senior Anna Pierce and juniors Kenzie Dambach and Alissa Hardiman could start as well, while DiNisco is showing great promise in being able to break into the top group.
The two captains, Torcivia and McBrien, anchor the midfield and will be joined by freshman Kelsey Yenco. The Patriot League’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Torcivia has earned All-League honors in each of her first three seasons while garnering All-Region for the first time last spring. Meanwhile, McBrien posted 29 points (18 goals, 11 assists) a season ago after transitioning from a defensive role her freshman season. Also expected to contribute are junior Alissa Hardiman and freshmen Brianna Buysse and Emily Solenberger.
Senior Lauren Murray will lead the way on attack along with freshman Carli Sukonik. Rounding out the offense will be senior Kelly Draper, juniors Megan Kelly and Anna Patterson, sophomore Julie Tatios, and freshman Scarlett Nawrocki. Sophomores Caitlin Keefe and Chelsea Retaleato also hope to vie for time.
“Offensively, there’s still a ton of competition for playing time,” said Necioglu. “Lauren will lead the attack as a senior with lots of experience all over the field”
The Mountain Hawks have good reason to expect success. They have made steady progress since the fall. Yet with such a young squad, there will naturally be some unknowns until they get real-game experience.
“Part of the story is we’re waiting for the 12 who play the best together to emerge,” said Redfern. “There’s definitely a chemistry question on this team of who can fill the necessary roles on a consistent basis.”
“We think we could have some different options, depending on the game,” said Necioglu. “We definitely have more flexibility than in past years. We can have some different looks out there.
With so many freshmen looking to contribute, that class has a pivotal role to play as they continue to gel with the more veteran players.
“The freshmen are athletic, focused, and ambitious as a group,” said Redfern.
“We think our team is all about the team and not as much the individuals,” Redfern continued. “All the little puzzle pieces are looking much more equal and we’re hoping they collectively add up to success.”