Coach: Janine Tucker (122-45, 11th season)
2003 record: 11-5
Conference: American Lacrosse
Top returning point-getter: Heidi Pearce, senior M (24 goals, 16 assists)
Also back: Erin Riordan, junior A; Lacey-Leigh Hentz, junior D; Kate Gilland, senior D; Rachel Krom, senior D; Kate Barcomb, senior M; Meagan Voight, sophomore A; Sarah Walsh, sophomore A; Marlena Wittelsberger, senior A; Lauren Riddick, senior G
Key additions: Mary Key (St. Mary's), freshman A; Cherie Michaud (Maryvale), freshman D; Steph Janice, freshman M
Sun's take: The Blue Jays have been bidding to become an elite team for the past couple of years, and Tucker has confidence this could finally be the time. She looks to a huge, 12-2 victory over then-No. 14 North Carolina late last season and to an emerging chemistry within this year's team that includes a healthy mix of veterans and enthusiastic young talent. "We want to springboard off beating North Carolina in terms of knowing we can beat a tough team," Tucker said. "I'm excited about the chemistry, the level of intensity. The appetite has been whet for taking that next step. We have a little more self confidence across the board." The Blue Jays can earn a trip to the NCAA tournament if they can win their conference, which gets its first automatic bid this season. Still fairly young with 16 underclassmen, they boast a balanced attack, speed on defense and a veteran goalie. All of that should help them overcome the inconsistency that may have cost them an at-large bid to the tournament last season.
Coach: Kerri Johnson (first season)
2003 record: 17-2
Top returning point-getter: Rachel Shuck, senior A (24, 38)
Also back: Cindy Nicolaus, sophomore G; Kim Lawton, senior G; Tara Singleton, senior D; Kristi Korrow, senior D; Talia Shacklock, junior M; Kourtney Porcella, senior M; Stephanie Walker, junior M; Jen Schuerholz, senior M; Jaclyn Borrone, senior M
Key additions: Kate McHarg, freshman M; Cari West (Severna Park), freshman M; Meghan MacIntire (Severna Park), freshman M
Sun's take: The Greyhounds enjoyed a banner season a year ago, setting a school record for wins in a season and holding the No. 1 ranking for eight of 10 weeks before falling to eventual national champion Princeton in the NCAA semifinals. Matching that emotional run, with coach Diane Geppi-Aikens battling brain cancer, would be a tall order, but there is plenty of experience left to take another stab at a national title. With 22 returning players, the Greyhounds have perhaps the nation's best feeder in Shuck, as well as perhaps the nation's top two goalies in Nicolaus and Lawton, who split time. Also, they return 140 goals, boast speed and have a wealth of experience on defense. With their goalies and top defenders Singleton, Korrow and Porcella back, they should remain one of the toughest teams to score against in the country. "We have a good balance," Johnson said. "Overall, I don't feel we lost a lot in any particular area. We lost eight seniors, but we've always recruited so we would have that balance and not lose everyone in one particular area."
Coach: Cindy Timchal (221-26, 14th season)
2003 record: 18-4
Conference: Atlantic Coast
Top returning point-getter: Kelly Coppedge (73, 22), senior M
Also back: Acacia Walker, junior M; Greta Sommers, junior D; Delia Cox, sophomore M/A; Laura Warren, senior M/A Annie Collins, junior M; Molly Lambert, senior M/D; Meg Mallon, senior D; Jessica Dorney, junior A; Kirah Miles, junior G
Key additions: Krista Pellizzi, freshman A; Mollie Reese (Hereford), freshman M/A; Katie Doolittle, freshman M/A
Sun's take: After a disappointing 2002 campaign, the Terrapins looked more like their old selves last season, claiming the ACC title and coming within a goal of the NCAA final. Only a 9-8 semifinal loss to Virginia kept the Terps from playing for a 10th national championship. Eight players return and the only question mark appears to be in goal, where Miles takes over despite never having started a college game. Timchal has faith in Miles. "She has confidence and she's been directing the defense. She knows this is her season and it's really typical of Maryland players that when they know they're the ones who have to step up, they do. She's right on track." Elsewhere, the Terps lost key contributors on the attack and defense. Several players who stepped up last season, including Cox and Collins, should fill the gaps on attack. The defense boast five players with a combined 180 games of experience. The Terps have no worries in the midfield, where Coppedge, the ACC Player of the Year, and Walker lead a strong contingent of two-way players.
Coach: Monica Yeakel (68-52, eighth season)
2003 record: 10-9
Conference: America East
Top returning point-getter: Jen Dragoni (37, 24)
Also back: Stephanie Crouch, junior D; Tracie McClintic, junior D; Lauren Hess, junior A; Kelly Fiorani, sophomore M; Emily Sawyer, senior M; Kate Worthington, sophomore A; Jenny Kasper, sophomore A; Julie Libertini, sophomore D
Key additions: Kelly Fahey (Bel Air) freshman M; Jena Goldstein, freshman G; Megan Mullins (Westminster), freshman M
Sun's take: After winning five of the past six Northeast Conference titles, the Retrievers step up to the America East and a considerably tougher schedule. Defending America East champ Boston University is ranked No. 12 in the preseason, but Yeakel said that's the kind of challenge she and her team welcome. "It's a great move for us. We are super-psyched about competing in this conference," she said. "The last two or three years were very up and down. We'd play Loyola and then go play a conference team that wasn't very strong. That was very hard on our team." Yeakel said she has seen a change in her players as they anticipate a more competitive schedule. This is a good time for the Retrievers to make the move, having lost just three players and returning a bigger, deeper squad. The line defense could be their strength, with Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year Crouch, McClintic, Sawyer and Libertini all back. The only area lacking experience is in goal, where Yeakel will start freshman Goldstein.
Coach: Courtney Martinez Connor (16-20, third season)
2003 record: 9-10
Top returning point-getter: Nicole D'Angelo, sophomore A, (33, 22)
Also back: Naomi Campano, senior G; Kim Keene, senior M; Kelsey Withrow, sophomore D; Kirby Day, sophomore A; Addie Lewis, senior A; Erin LaMotte, sophomore M; Lauren Reymann, sophomore M
Key additions: Jenna Duffy (Catholic), freshman M; Ashleigh James (John Carroll), freshman A; Katie Mason (Mount Hebron), freshman M; Katie Simmons, freshman M
Sun's take: In only her second season as coach, Connor put the Mountaineers in the Northeast Conference championship game last season, when they lost, 11-9, to UMBC. Now, she hopes to produce the school's first winning season since 1998. All but four players return from last year's squad. "Even though this year we're still young, we have more experience than we did last year. It helped us out that we went to the conference tournament and to the championship game, which no one on our team had ever had experience with." The Mountaineers are almost all underclassmen, with just four seniors and two juniors. They have a strong balance of players up and down the field. D'Angelo and Day (34 goals) lead the attack, while Keene, who holds the school record for caused turnovers, anchors the midfield. This season, Connor said she looks to build a little more consistency to keep her team on track toward a return trip to the conference title game.
Coach: Missy Holmes (first season)
2003 record: 7-9
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association
Top returning point-getter: Becky Trumbo, sophomore A (39, 9)
Also back: Stephanie Howell, senior M; Caitlin Marshall, senior M; Abby Giancola, senior M; Amy Shilling, junior D; Jessica O'Connell, senior G; Amy Middleton, junior M; Kelly Fitzgerald, sophomore M; Mary Beth Ardolino, sophomore A; Erin Cayea, junior A
Key addition: Shannon Witzel, freshman M
Sun's take: The Tigers started strong last season before finishing a disappointing 2-7 down the stretch. The challenge for new coach Holmes is to build a defensive unit to match the strength of the attack and midfield she inherited. With Trumbo, the CAA Rookie of the Year, leading the attack and Howell, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2003, pacing the midfield, the Tigers only need to bolster their defense. "We're still trying to find the right mix of defenders who work well together," Holmes said. Shilling and O'Connell will anchor the defense as its only upperclassmen. The rest of the Tigers' defense includes five sophomores and two freshmen. While Holmes will be building for the future with a team that has only three seniors, she isn't ruling out a successful inaugural season against a tough CAA schedule. "The key to having a good season, for pretty much any season, is being ready when the time comes to compete and focusing on the task at hand," Holmes said. "If we can get each player to have the confidence to fulfill her role when the time comes, we'll be fine."
- Katherine Dunn
The Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association Top 20, with last year's record in parentheses:
1. Princeton (16-4)
2003 final ranking: No. 5
Sun's take: Although the two-time defending national champs graduated a lot of star power, coach Chris Sailer has plenty of understudies waiting for a turn in the spotlight. Still, some of the nation's best players return, including top scorer Theresa Sherry (46 goals, 6 assists). The defense needs rebuilding, but stellar returning goalie Sarah Kolodner makes that less of an issue.
2. Maryland (18-4)
2003 final ranking: No. 2
Sun's take: Back in the final four last season after a year away, the Terrapins have the talent to go back for the 17th time. If Kirah Miles steps up, as Terps goalies before her have, a return to the semifinals could easily follow.
3. Virginia (17-5)
2003 final ranking: No. 3
Sun's take: The Cavaliers led the nation in scoring offense the past two years and that should continue with seven potent attackers back, including Amy Appelt and Cary Chasney. If the young defense can hold, the 2003 national runners-up should be right back in the final four.
4. Duke (13-5)
2003 final ranking: No. 4
Sun's take: Add one of the nation's top recruiting classes to nine returning starters, including Meg Miller and Katie Chrest, and last season's disappointing finish will soon be forgotten.
5. Loyola (17-2)
2003 final ranking: No. 1
Sun's take: A year after their emotional drive to the national semifinals, the Greyhounds have perhaps the nation's best defense to anchor another run at the top.
6. Georgetown (13-4)
2003 final ranking: No. 6
Sun's take: The Hoyas have more rebuilding to do than any other Top 10 team, but a host of talented newcomers, including Coco Stanwick, will help.
7. Dartmouth (11-5)
2003 final ranking: No. 7
Sun's take: Only a one-goal loss to Princeton kept the Big Green from claiming the Ivy League title outright. With end-to-end returning talent, this could be the year.
8. James Madison (13-6)
2003 final ranking: No. 8
Sun's take: The Dukes should return to the forefront of the Colonial Athletic Association, thanks in part to defender Jessica Beard and pivotal center Gail Decker (51, 19).
9. Ohio State (14-4)
2003 final ranking: No. 11
Sun's take: Do-it-all midfielder Regina Oliver (43, 13) leads the rising Buckeyes, who have everything but a proven goalie going for them.
10. Penn State (9-8)
2003 final ranking: No. 13
Sun's take: Nine returning starters, including goalie Lee Tortorelli, should boost the Nittany Lions, who lost four single-goal games last season.
11. North Carolina (7-9)
2003 final ranking: No. 14
Sun's take: Coming off their first sub-.500 season, the Tar Heels will rely on a lot of youngsters for better finishing and stronger transition.
12. Boston U. (14-5)
2003 final ranking: No. 20
Sun's take: With nine starters back and no obvious weaknesses, coach Liza Shoemaker's Terriers could be in for their best season ever.
13. Syracuse (10-6)
2003 final ranking: No. 10
Sun's take: A strong mix of veterans and newcomers could give the Orangewomen a lift in the Big East and a fifth straight NCAA bid.
14. Stanford (11-7)
2003 final ranking: No. 15
Sun's take: After going two seasons unbeaten in the West, the Cardinal aims for a national stage, returning its four top scorers, including Kelsey Twist (36,12).
15. Cornell (11-5)
2003 final ranking: No. 12
Sun's take: The tough Ivy League schedule will challenge the youngest Big Red team in recent years.
16. Vanderbilt (7-7)
2003 final ranking: No. 18
Sun's take: Michelle Allen and Lauren Peck lead a deep, veteran-dominated Commodores squad.
17. Notre Dame (8-7)
2003 final ranking: No. 16
Sun's take: Finishing off 2003 with four wins, the Irish took a running leap into a 2004 that features nine ranked foes.
18. Yale (14-4)
2003 final ranking: No. 9
Sun's take: Speedy Miles Whitman leads the Bulldogs in an Ivy race in which they took a third of the title in 2003.
19. Old Dominion (12-4)
2003 final ranking: No. 19
Sun's take: Two-time national scoring leader Suzanne Wosczyna (45, 32) leads the Colonial Athletic Association champs.
20. Johns Hopkins (11-5)
2003 final ranking: No. 17
Sun's take: If the Blue Jays can overcome last season's inconsistency, they should vie for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
- Katherine Dunn
Coach: Nicole Bonvouloir (first season)
2003 record: 6-8
Top returning point-getter: Page Macey, junior A (44, 29)
Also back: Sarah Shockley, senior G; Stefanie Ritz, sophomore A
Key additions: Brittany Brumby, freshman M; Angela Munro, junior A (transfer from Harford Community College); Tina Trent, freshman D
Sun's take: The Bobcats have been treading water the past two seasons with 6-8 records, despite having the high-scoring Macey and with Shockley in goal. Bonvouloir will try to inject a winning attitude into a squad that has some proven talent.
Coach: Kara Carlin (30-22, fifth season)
2003 record: 6-10
Conference: Capital Athletic
Top returning point-getter: Kate Howell, senior A (50, 16)
Also back: Ashley Snyder, junior A; Ashley Sudbrook, junior M; Dean Ulman, senior M
Key additions: Kelsey Havens, freshman M; Whitney Groseclose, freshman M
Sun's take: With 10 starters returning from a team that lost seven games to squads bound for the NCAA Division III playoffs, there has to be hope that the Gophers gained a lot of valuable experience. The 10 starters include the entire starting attack and starting defense from last season, as well as G Laura Webbert who led the CAC in saves (161).
Coach: Staci Thomson (2-10, second season)
2003 record: 2-10
Conference: Atlantic Women's Colleges
Top returning point-getter: Tiffany Still, junior M (31, 3)
Also back: Cheryl Banks, sophomore M; Annie Lavery, sophomore M
Key addition: Melissa Olsen, freshman D
Sun's take: The Blazers have suddenly found themselves with only 10 players on their roster, with the season opener set for Wednesday. Two of Thomson's major objectives this season are to play a quick-striking, transition game and cut down on the turnovers - her team committed 56 more than opponents last season.
Coach: Marjorie Bliss, first season
2003 record: 6-9
Top returning point-getter: Kim Lowry, senior A (16, 16)
Also back: Sara Thomas, senior A; Lindsay Ricks, sophomore M; Lindsay O'Steen, junior G
Key addition: Emily Funk, freshman M
Sun's take: Bliss, 23, is the youngest head coach in McDaniel lacrosse history, and she's starting out by dreaming big - she believes she can take the Green Terror to postseason play for the first time in school history. A lot of that optimism is based on the leadership and scoring ability of co-captains Lowry and Thomas, and the expected continued improvement of O'Steen in net.
College of Notre Dame
Coach: Melissa Falen (109-107-1, 15th season)
2003 record: 9-8
Conference: Atlantic Women's Colleges
Top returning point-getter: Lori Baran, senior A (54, 7)
Also back: Becca Dodson, senior A; Kate Dranbauer, junior G; Monique Boone, sophomore G
Key addition: Sara Breidenbaugh, freshman A
Sun's take: The Gators have reached a middle-of-the-road level in lower Division III circles thanks to scoring stars such as Baran and Dodson. Now, they have to improve their talent and depth to gain respectability against some of the stronger Division III teams in the area.
Coach: Megan Block (first season)
2003 record: 15-4
Conference: Capital Athletic
Top returning point-getter: Carol Schmoeller, senior M (50, 50)
Also back: Karli Libertini, junior A; Kate Story, senior A; Sarah Sloane, junior M; Jen Chumley, senior G
Key addition: Melissa Puzak, freshman G
Sun's take: This team is loaded with talent again and should have little trouble gaining a fourth consecutive NCAA Division III tournament berth and its sixth in the past seven seasons. Block walks into a situation made for winning with 11 starters back, including the high-scoring Schmoeller, who is the headliner among four returnees who racked up 317 points last season.
Coach: Jim Nestor (23-8, third season)
2003 record: 14-2
Conference: Capital Athletic
Top returning point-getter: Lynsey Bateman, sophomore A (39, 17)
Also back: Jessica White, senior A; Amber Stansbury, senior A; Linda Ackerman, junior M; Sarah Slafkosky, junior M; Mary Bateman, junior M; Kelly Murphy, senior D
Key addition: Regan Miller, junior D (transfer from Old Dominion)
Sun's take: The Salisbury-St. Mary's lacrosse rivalry continues to burn fiercely, as the Sea Gulls bounced back last season to oust St. Mary's as CAC champion. Salisbury enjoyed a school-record 12-game winning streak and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Division III tournament. The Sea Gulls return 10 of their top 12 scorers and are ranked fourth in the International Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association preseason poll.
Coach: Brenda Yoo (7-7, second season)
2003 record: 7-7
Top returning point-getter: Molly McCaffery, junior A (42, 9)
Also back: Kim Gorsch, senior A; Beth Krastel, sophomore A; Colleen Baughman, sophomore M; Erin Smith, junior D; Alexis Meyer, junior G
Key additions: Lisa Cinquegrani, freshman A; Nikki Miller, freshman M
Sun's take: It won't take long for the Mustangs to find out where they stand as they open March 2 on the road against a powerful St. Mary's team that has rolled up a 34-5 record over the past two seasons. Villa Julie should be improved over last season with a good blend of experience and youth, led by the high-scoring McCaffery.
Coach: Suzie Friedrich (first season)
2003 record: 14-6
Top returning point-getter: Janet Studdiford, senior A (57, 38)
Also back: Casey Sawma, senior A; Ashley Crisler, sophomore G; Diana Martin, senior D; Minta Sayres, senior M; Lindsey Eichner, junior A
Key additions: Liddy Campbell, sophomore A (transfer from Gettysburg); Megan Block, freshman M/A; Mollie Binotto, freshman G
Sun's take: Washington College moved to a higher level of Division III respectability last season, posting school records for consecutive wins (nine) and goals scored (267) and tying a school record for victories in a season (14). The reward was a trip to the ECAC Mid-Atlantic championship game.
- Bill Free