AL’S FEARLESS 5IVE
Franklin & Marshall
One year ago, the Middlebury Panthers were stinging from being unable to give Hall-of-Fame coach Missy Foote a final national championship. But the Panthers did not have to wait long in order to gain success under new head coach Kate Livesay.
Playing a brash and attacking style of lacrosse, Middlebury went through the most difficult part of the bracket, beating Cortland in the semis, then meeting Trinity for the third time in six weeks in the final. The 9-5 score belied how aggressive Middlebury was during the game, as the Panthers took a 6-0 lead in 35 minutes.
The Panthers return plenty of talent for 2017, including leading point-getter Mary O’Connell (36 goals, 43 assists). I believe a large part of Middlebury’s success will hang on the performance of junior Hollis Perticone, who has a good all-around game in the midfield.
Middlebury’s greatest competition, as per usual, comes from within its own league, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). As was the case a year ago, the chief competition will likely come from Trinity. The Bantams return 54-goal scorer Clare Lyne, who also had 66 draw controls a year ago.
Salisbury will return Gabbi Nieves (41-9) and Dana King (14-27) on attack, but I believe the key to the Sea Gulls’ chances this hear hinge on their defense. Gianna Falcone, a junior, returns in the goal cage, and so do experienced defenders Kacy Koolage and Kieran Kelleher.
The team with the most formidable rebuilding job is going to be Cortland State. Gone are 80-goal scorer Tara Monahan and 74-goal scorer Ashley Gentile. The Red Dragons’ cupboard is not bare on the attack end, however. Kristen Ohberg (64-56) and Hannah Elmer (38-58) will be counted on to lead the attack this year. Jaclyn Beshlian, who has taken the best shots of that attack every day in practice, returns as goalkeeper.
Not to be outdone, Franklin & Marshall is poised for a serious run at the national championship. Paige Moriarty (78-30), Gabby Frank (43-29), and Claire Jackson (31-21) will lead the Diplomats’ attack. Vanessa Budd (43 draws controlled, 38 turnovers caused) lead an inexperienced defense
DARK HORSE: St. John Fisher. Coti Holbrook and Jordan Johnson, the Cardinals’ two leading goal-scorers, return, and the team is very much a threat to win the Empire 8. This year, the team opens with a pair of games in Florida against Kenyon and Roanoke before heading north for the heart of their schedule.