With 17 players returning on a team that finished 6-10 last season, Roland Park lacrosse coaches Kristin Nicolini and her sister Reagon Koffel weren't sure what to expect from their players this spring, especially in the demanding Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.
They weren't expecting to be 7-2 in the league and tied with Notre Dame Prep for second place in the 12-team conference.
“I am happy with where we are right now to be honest with you,” said Nicolini, whose team is 10-3 overall. “If you asked me at the beginning of the year if this is where we would be, I wouldn’t have thought so.
"I know we were capable of it, but we haven’t always played up to our capability. This year, we are playing up to our potential.”
The Reds have a chance to make their first trip to the final since 2010, when they lost to McDonogh. Roland Park is 6-1 in games decided by three goals or fewer.
“I think inside this team knows what they are capable of and they always fight for it,” said Nicolini, who has served as coach with her sister for the past six seasons. “They fight in every game. We have been in some really close games, and in the end, we are the ones that are still fighting.”
Roland Park has defeated Bryn Mawr, Mount de Sales and Severn by a goal, Dulaney and John Carroll by two and Archbishop Spalding by three.
Among the returning players are starters Marisa Class, Katie DeMuth, CeCe Finney (University of Florida), Abbey Muhly (Furman University), Mary Diffenderfer, Megan Lynch, Anna Hauser (University of Virginia) and Francesca Whitehurst (Georgetown University).
Finney said the Reds have thrived on low expectations from opponents after last year’s struggles — especially early in the season.
“I think people have underestimated us,” she said. “We really wanted to prove ourselves. We knew we were good.”
Finney, a senior midfielder, senior defender Katie DeMuth (James Madison University) and Whitehurst, a junior midfielder, have provided the Reds with leadership.
“We have some girls that really have emerged as leaders and taken over the team,” Nicolini said. “I think that has made a big difference.”
Finney (36 goals) and Whitehurst (44) have been leaders on the field. They’re part of a high-scoring midfield that also includes Hauser (12 goals, 12 assists).
“Our midfield is really our strength,” Nicolini said. “They are just fast and relentless.”
They’re feeding an attack of junior Jenna Janes (University of Vermont), senior Katie Bolte (Jacksonville University) and junior Katie Clements.
In goal, Roland Park features standout junior Riley Brager (Monmouth College), who is backed up by senior Rachel Poverman (Pace University).
“We are on putting together a good 50 minutes,” Finney said. “It’s been a lot of tough work in practice, but we are getting there. We want to put together a full 50 minutes by the (May 11) championship.”