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Division I women's lacrosse preview capsules

College SportsNorthwestern WildcatsMetalDuke Blue DevilsMaryland TerrapinsNCAALoyola Greyhounds

Projected NCAA seeds

1. Northwestern

American Lacrosse Conference

Last season: 21-2, National champion

Coach: Kelly Amonte Hiller (11th season, 175-28)

Top returning point-getter: Shannon Smith, senior A (86 goals, 42 assists)

Other key returnees

Taylor Thornton, junior D

Erin Fitzgerald, junior M (40, 7)

Alex Frank, senior M (19, 5)

Lacey Vigmostad, senior D

Key newcomers

Casey Bocklet, freshman, M-A

Brooks Lawler, freshman M

Outlook: When you're the defending national champ with 10 starters back, including the national player of the year, who else could be the preseason No. 1? Smith, who won the Tewaaraton Trophy and the Honda Award last season, leads a stellar cast of Wildcats, who edged 2010 champ Maryland, 8-7, in the title game for their sixth championship since the program returned to Division I in 2002. Not only do the Wildcats have solid veterans in all areas of the field, but they have the versatility to mix it up and move players around for fresh looks on both ends of the field. Last season, the Wildcats hit a mid-season skid dropping back-to-back games to Florida and Johns Hopkins, but they rebounded with nine straight wins including four one-goal victories. The Wildcats haven't forgotten that experience and it, along with their high-powered offense and aggressive defense, should help put a seventh title in their trophy case.

**

2. Maryland

Atlantic Coast Conference

Last season: 21-2, National finalist

Coach: Cathy Reese (sixth season, 98-11; ninth season overall, 129-40)

Top returning point-getter: Katie Schwarzmann, junior M (65, 16)

Other key returnees

Karri Ellen Johnson, senior, A (39, 12)

Brittany Dipper, senior G

Kristy Black, senior A (31, 21)

Beth Glaros, sophomore, M (22, 7)

Iliana Sanza, junior, D

Key newcomers

Brooke Griffin, RS-freshman M

Shanna Brady, freshman D

Megan Douty, freshman, M-D

Kelly McPartland, freshman, M

Outlook: Two story lines emerge from the Terrapins' hopes to return to the national title game after falling 8-7 to Northwestern. Having Johnson back boosts an offense that can still score a lot of goals despite graduating Sarah Mollison and Laura Merrifield, who combined for 101. Johnson was on course to possibly become Maryland's all-time scoring leader but missed the final 12 games last spring after suffering a concussion. Still, she finished fourth on the Terps' final scoring chart and was second in draw controls. The other story line, yet to develop, is how well a defense which allowed just 6.8 goals per game rebuilds after graduating everyone except Sanza and Dipper. As usual, the Terps have players waiting to step in to those vacated roles and with another high-powered offense, there is time for the defense to gel.

**

3. Duke

Atlantic Coast Conference

Last season: 15-5, NCAA semifinalist

Coach: Kerstin Kimel (17th season, 204-97; 18th season overall, 208-105)

Top returning point-getter: Emma Hamm, senior M (51, 25)

Other key returnees

Kat Thomas, senior M (45, 2)

Kim Wenger, senior M (18, 21)

Bridget Nolan, senior M

Mollie Mackler, senior G

Key newcomers

Taylor Trimble, freshman M

Kerrin Maurer, freshman A

Outlook: The Blue Devils have a few holes to fill after graduating three of their top six scorers and could struggle early, but they have plenty of goals returning and add a stellar freshman class that should come along as the season progresses. On defense, the Blue Devils return their unit intact, including Mackler, who led the ACC in saves per game and made a career-high 20 against Northwestern. Getting the ball off the draw is a challenge for any Duke opponent leading one coach to say the Blue Devils might not lose a draw all season. Hamm comes into the season as the program's all-time draw control leader and Thomas ranks fourth. Duke led the ACC in draw controls last season with 14.5 per game. Just how well the Blue Devils rebound from their losses will be evident Sunday when they host Northwestern.

**

4. North Carolina

Atlantic Coast Conference

Last season: 15-6, NCAA semifinalist

Coach: Jenny Levy (17th season, 209-88)

Top returning point-getter: Becky Lynch, senior A (40, 36)

Other key returnees

Laura Zimmerman, senior M (43, 15)

Abbey Friend, sophomore A-M (34, 13)

Sloane Serpe, sophomore D

Lauren Maksym, junior G

Key newcomers

Caleigh Sindall, freshman D

Kelly Devlin, freshman M

Outlook: Expect a more balanced offense from the Tar Heels, who return eight of their top ten scorers but graduated 52 goals with Corey Donohoe, the school single-season and career record holder for goals and points. The offense will be looking for a little more consistency after struggling in an 11-10 NCAA semifinal loss to Northwestern last spring. Defensively, the Tar Heels had a lot of work to do in the offseason after losing their entire line defense, but they have a promising crop of newcomers, including Sindall, as well as veteran goalie Maksym. Only the turnover on defense keeps the Tar Heels a preseason third in the nation's toughest conference, the ACC, but that could change with most of their conference schedule late in the season and Duke and Maryland among the last four games.

**

Rest of the state schools

Johns Hopkins

American Lacrosse Conference

Last season: 9-8

Coach: Janine Tucker (19th season, 201-104)

Top returning point-getter: Colleen McCaffrey, senior, A (42, 12)

Other key returnees

Taylor D'Amore, sophomore M (28, 19)

Candace Rossi, senior A (31, 13)

Alyssa Kildare, senior D

Cosette Larash, junior G

Key newcomers

Octavia Williams, freshman, M

Sarah Biron, freshman M

Outlook: The Blue Jays caught almost everyone's attention when they upset No. 4 Penn last season. Anyone who wasn't impressed came around three weeks later when they nipped No. 2 and ALC rival Northwestern, 12-11. The Wildcats went on to win the national title. Hopkins wasn't consistent enough to make the tournament field. With eight starters back, the Jays look to move up in the conference where they finished 1-4 as well as the national scene. The offense returns nearly intact and could put up big numbers, but the Blue Jays need to take momentum away from their big wins, something they couldn't do last season. Tucker said the key to sustaining what they start comes with "really believing we can be one of the big boys." With eight ranked teams on their schedule, the Blue Jays have their chance.

**

Loyola

Big East Conference

Last season: 17-3, NCAA quarterfinalist

Coach: Jen Adams (fourth season, 39-16)

Top returning point-getter: Marlee Paton, sophomore M (38, 10)

Other key returnees

Ana Heneberry, senior D

Kerry Stoothoff, senior G

Kellye Gallagher, senior D

Ashley Moulton, junior M/D

Key newcomers

Annie Thomas, freshman M

Molly Hulseman, freshman M

Sydney Thomas, freshman M

Outlook: The reigning Big East champions return 17 players, but few starters other than on defense. While the attack and midfield are inexperienced, the Greyhounds return intact one of the stingiest defenses in Division I. Last season, the unit allowed 8.95 goals per game and led the nation in caused turnovers. The questions lie on the other end where they Greyhounds lost 221 of their 276 goals, including 71 by Big East Player of the Year Grace Gavin. Adams said that while the Greyhounds don't have the experience, they have the talent. If the returnees who have been itching to start and the promising freshmen mesh early – and stay healthy (key sophomore M Taryn VanThof is already out for the season with a torn ACL) – the Greyhounds should continue to move up.

**

Mount St. Mary's

Northeast Conference

Last season: 8-11

Coach: B.J. Johnson (second season)

Top returning point-getter: Jen Semler, senior A (38, 15)

Other key returnees

Nicole Price, senior A (37, 8)

Esther Rufolo, senior M (35, 6)

Meaghan Conlon, senior, M (9, 3)

Brigid McTavish, senior G

Key newcomer

Melissa Cox, freshman D

Outlook: For Johnson, who took over the program in January 2011, having a full preseason with her team felt like a luxury. With only three players graduating from last year's team, she has plenty of veterans and plenty of potential for improvement in their game and their record. Look for a stronger, deeper midfield which should give the Mountaineers more flexibility in their attack and their transition game. With so little time to prepare last season, Johnson said her team was one dimensional. A year later, they're better able to adapt on the field and take on new roles. The Mountaineers were picked by the NEC coaches to finish third, but they often surpass expectations as they did last year when the beat Sacred Heart in the final game of the season to clinch a tournament playoff berth and went on to the title game.

**

Navy

Patriot League

Last season: 15-6, NCAA first round

Coach: Cindy Timchal (fifth season, 58-19; 30th season overall, 394-105)

Top returning point-getter: Jasmine DePompeo, junior A (57, 42)

Other key returnees

Kathy Young, junior M (46, 8)

Aimee Gennaro sophomore A (53, 14)

Kierstin King, senior D

Dominique Wright, senior D

Key newcomers

Jess Fellows, freshman M

Loren Generi, freshman A

Outlook: The last two years, the Midshipmen have won the Patriot League title and gone on to the NCAA tournament. As they look to keep moving up, they return a veteran squad with nine starters back, led by DePompeo, whose 99 points ranked third in Division I last spring. This team, favored to win another Patriot League title, boasts solid, steady players throughout, a typically high-powered Timchal-style offense, a strong transition and a wealth of defensive players. Team captain King anchors a defense that had 17 players in preseason and returned two goalies who saw starting time. This year's schedule is highlighted by a trip to Northwestern, where Timchal began her college coaching career. In March, she should become the first college coach – men's or women's -- to reach 400 wins.

**

Towson

Colonial Athletic Association

Last season: 11-7

Coach: Sonia LaMonica (second season, third season overall, 19-16)

Top returning point-getter: Sarah Appelt, senior A (18, 22)

Other key returnees:

Alexa Demski, junior D

Mary Teeters, senior G

Ashley Waldron, junior M (24, 5)

Andi Raymond, sophomore A

Key newcomers

Michelle Dufault, freshman D

Christina Antonini, freshman M

Outlook: The Tigers proved tough to beat in the close games last season, winning all four times they went to overtime. Those included three conference wins which helped the Tigers host the CAA tournament. They couldn't quite pull out the CAA final, falling to James Madison, 8-6, but it gave them plenty of motivation for this season with eight returning starters. The Tigers graduated top scorer Jess Dunn but return much of the rest of their scoring. On defense, only Teeters and Demski return but LaMonica said Dufault doesn't play like a freshman and that the unit is looking solid already. The Tigers face another tough opening schedule, that includes Loyola, Syracuse and Maryland, but that schedule should again help toughen the Tigers for their CAA schedule beginning in April.

**

UMBC

America East Conference

Last season: 11-7

Coach: Kelly Berger (third season, 22-14)

Top returning point-getter: Alicia Krause, senior M (35, 15)

Other key returnees

Jamie Fahey, junior D

Emily Coady, senior A (21, 10)

Lindsay Cox, junior M

Jessica Harkey, senior D

Top newcomers

Alyssa Blevins, freshman, D-M

Abby Wilson, freshman A

Jordan Lyons, freshman A

Outlook: The Retrievers reached the America East title game the last two years and they will be gunning to come away with the title this time. The conference was so close last year that the Retrievers lost a one-goal regular-season game to eventual conference champ Albany and rebounded from a regular-season loss to Boston University to win by one goal in the tournament semifinal. To contend again, UMBC has some holes to fill after graduating half of the starters and half of the point production. The Retrievers will rely on Krause, Coady, Cox and some talented newcomers to rejuvenate the attack. The line defense appears solid, especially with the return of Fahey from a knee injury last April. The battle is on for a new goalie between two capable candidates, junior Kendall Mason and freshman Anna Barnett.

--Katherine Dunn

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