Season Preview: Women's Lacrosse Hoping Competition Breeds Success

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - page 2

During the second week of Muhlenberg women’s lacrosse practice, mummies could be seen running around Frank Marino Field at Scotty Wood Stadium.

It had nothing to do with any horror movies or interactive history exhibit. Rather, the toilet-paper wrapped players were representing Egypt in the team’s version of the Olympics.

Kelsey Elmer
Elmer ranks fourth amongst active Mules with 17 goals and 25 points in her career.

Fittingly, Greece ended up winning the contest and claiming the coveted torch. But more importantly, the Olympics helped create an atmosphere of competition and camaraderie that the team hopes will carry it to the playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons.

“They were really cool and helped make conditioning a lot more fun. They also helped bring us closer as a team,” senior co-captain Angela Napoletano said of the Olympics. “We’re really determined to improve this season. We didn’t do as well as we wanted last year, and we’ve been working really hard to change that.”

The quest begins on Thursday when Muhlenberg opens the season at Widener before heading to Hilton Head for Spring Break. And if the Mules are going to reach their playoff goal, Napoletano said it will take some variety on offense.

Jessica Shegoski
Shegoski leads active players with 31 career draw controls.
While Muhlenberg lost the second-leading scorer in program history to graduation, it’s not going to be up to one person to try to fill the void. The Mules return five players who score at least 10 points last season, including Napoletano, who finished second on the squad with 46 points (39 goals, 7 assists) despite missing two games.

Senior co-captain Kelsey Elmer (7 G, 4 A) and juniors Molly Davin (25 goals, 9 assists), Alex Bellini (20 G, 5 A) and Alexandra Gabriele (6 G, 6 A) return to form what Napoletano called one of the deepest offensive lineups she can remember.

“We have five, six or seven girls that can all score,” Napoletano said. “We don’t have one dominant player that we’re going to try to get the ball to; we want to spread it around. We’ve been working together really well, and I think we’re going to have a lot of girls really stepping up this year.”

Seniors Sarah Hetrick (5 G, 3 A, 11 GB) and Jessica Shegoski (1 G, 1 A, 23 DC) and junior Jill Freda (9 GB, 4 CT) return to provide versatility in the midfield.

On the defensive end, senior Becky Ritter (6 GB) played in every game last season and leads what Napoletano called an athletic and talented group. Junior Alexandra Franck leads active Mules in career ground balls (78) and caused turnovers (47).

Sophomore Kaitlyn McCaffrey could contend for all-conference honors after a very impressive debut last spring. She set a school record for caused turnovers (39) and also led the team in ground balls (46) and draw controls (26). She led the conference in caused turnovers per game and finished second in ground balls per game.

The onus will be on the entire defensive unit because the Mules will have to break in a new starting goalie for the first time since 2008. But Napoletano said both junior Tiffany Kreider and sophomore Rachel Chinman have made great strides since the fall and are still battling for the starting spot.

If those strides continue, Napoletano believes there are enough pieces in place that the Mules can challenge for a spot in the postseason. And in her senior season, she said that would be as good as gold.

“I can’t wait for our first game,” Napoletano said. “We have a lot of talented players, and we’ve been working so hard that I think we can surprise some teams. We’re really excited to get the season going, and our senior class wants to go out with a bang.”