AL’S FEARLESS 5IVE
After all of the attention paid to non-traditional lacrosse regions since Northwestern started stringing together championships a decade ago, it took Florida Southern to take it to the South.
A year ago, the Moccasins rode their all-around game to a national championship. As a reward, Florida Southern now opens the season against an FIL World Cup competitor, Scotland, in a friendly. Kendall Kerge (53 goals) led the team a year ago, and she returns alongside Meghan O’Brien (35 goals, 37 assists) and Emily Santoli (35-32). Though defensive leaders Gabby Barowski (60 groundball pickups, 33 turnovers caused) and Rachael Griffith (35-44) have graduated, the team has a pair of senior transfers. Into the lineup comes Austin Brown, late of Coastal Carolina, and redshirt senior Kate Gehrdes, who comes from two years at Roanoke College.
Southern’s main competition will likely come from Rollins, who the Mocs beat by a goal in the NCAAs. Kallie German (39 goals, 12 assists) is the Tars’ leading returning scorer, and Lindsay Van Beck (21 pickups, 26 turnovers caused) is their leading defender. But what everyone else in Division II is keeping their eyes on is Rollins’ crop of 10 newcomers. That freshman class includes Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) star Sophie Stavisky, Tredyffrin Conestoga (Pa.) sniper Hannah Ashton, and Meg Bespolka, who is from England.
Adelphi returns its 80-goal scorer, Jacqueline Jahelka. However, only she and Michele Scannell (35) return from the team’s top five scorers. The Panthers’ fate, I think, rests on their group of close defenders. Senior Ryley Weber (37 groundball pickups, 38 caused turnovers, and 60 draw controls), Kaitlyn Stackpole (35-21-11), and Jen Graham (29-27-3) will have to play extremely well in front of goalie Taylor Hayes, who has had a grand total of 144 minutes in net in her career.
Pushing Adelphi for top honors in the New York region of Division II will be LeMoyne. The Dolphins’ two leading point scorers have graduated, leaving Bryanna Fazio (56 goals, 22 assists, 111 draws controlled) as the leading returning scorer. Senior Nicky Graveline (34 gb, 43 ct, 34 dc) is going to be exceedingly important in the defensive midfield along with Kelly Gaffney (35-17-9) and Jessica Dussing (25-19-10).
Lindenwood, from Missouri, is looking to make its second straight trip to the Final Four. The Lynx return leading scorers Allison Hurley (34-32) and Rachel Benzing (32-29) from a team which lost to Florida Southern in the semifinals. Key to their success will be the all-around play of midfielder Erin Abbott (43 gb, 32 ct, 64 dc).