Although the St. Vincent Pallotti girls lacrosse team does not have many experienced players, they have them where it matters most.
Senior goalie Lexi Thorne has been the team's most reliable player so far, while senior Hannah Antonelli has been the leader of the offense in the midfield and on attack during a 3-3 start to the season and 3-2 conference record.
"(Thorne) has faced about 100 shots in the first three games, which is bad," coach Mark Mozier said, "and she's saving about 65 percent of them, maybe even more."
"She holds the team together," Antonelli added.
The Panthers graduated only four players from last year's team that went 12-5 in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference, but they were valuable offensive contributors.
Those four players accounted for almost 75 percent of the team's goals, Mozier said. Antonelli, a four-year varsity player and three-year starter, scored the other 25 percent.
She is expected to account for much more this season. Through six games, no player had scored more than four varsity goals.
Coaches might have a hard time winning with so many inexperienced players, but Mozier is finding a way.
Mozier, a first-year high school lacrosse coach, co-founded University of Ladies Lacrosse, or ULAX, in 2006 and still coaches the program based in Annapolis. He also coached Huntingtown High's football team for seven years.
The lacrosse program is designed to help young girls learn the fundamentals of the game with the purpose of being recruited to play at the college level.
"We have about 350 girls every winter," Mozier said. "We just graduated our first class and probably 90 percent of them are (going to play) Division I."
Mozier chose to coach at Pallotti because he had success coaching football, and he wanted to come to a program where he could make a difference.
"Girls who came back from last year have improved so much just in one week of being with (Mozier)," Antonelli said.
His goal at Pallotti is to teach the game to as many girls as he can, which is why he decided not to make any cuts. The team has 28 girls, 14 of whom have never played lacrosse before.
"During the season, I think we're going to be up and down," Mozier said. "I'm hoping all our mistakes are gone (by the end of the season). Just from Week 1 until now, I'm happy with how our whole team has improved and that's all I can ask for. Whether we can beat teams, we'll find out."
Pallotti has had a tough time making up for the lack of offense as opposing teams double-team Antonelli. "It's been really, really hard," she said.
But senior Rachel Finnblade and freshman Jordan Shughrue have "really stepped up," Antonelli said, and the rest of the offense is improving under Mozier.
Mozier said it's "hard to score on us," and that the defense, led by Thorne at goalie, is the strength.
"The games that we've played so far have come down to me getting the ball and stopping them and turning the ball back over to Hannah," Thorne said.
Thorne added that communication has been strong, but the field sense needs to improve. She said that will come with more time on the field together.
Despite the inexperience, Mozier thinks Pallotti can win a wide-open C conference this year. "I think any team in this league can beat anybody," he said.
"We want it this year, and we're all coming together," Thorne said. "Our win (11-4 over St. Timothy's on April 2) has given us even more energy to go out there and play strong and hopefully we can make it to the championship."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun