2011 Women's Lacrosse Season Outlook

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Laura Lesnick

Laura Lesnick

Feb. 16, 2011

The 2011 season will usher in a new era for Penn State women's lacrosse, as Missy Doherty takes over the reins as the ninth head coach of the NCAA's second winningest program. Considered one of the rising stars in collegiate women's lacrosse, Doherty, who has won five national championships as a player and coach, comes to Happy Valley following a highly successful head coaching stint at Towson University, where she totaled 79 victories in seven seasons.

While the main leadership presence patrolling the sidelines will be different this season, many of the players on the field should be familiar to Nittany Lion fans. The 2011 team is veteran laden, featuring as many as 10 upperclassmen that could be regular starters, including seven seniors.

Overall, returning in 2011 is a squad comprised of 18 letterwinners and eight starters that will be captained by five valued seniors in Ashley Boccio, Maggie Dunbar, Jackie Eastman, Laura Lesnick, and Jen Steadman. Augmenting the roster will be the No. 9-ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse.

"We are extremely lucky to inherit the group that we did," said Doherty. "One of the things that could put this team over the top is the leadership of our senior class. They have bought into what we have been doing and teaching. They are great leaders and they are hard workers. They set an example for the younger players to follow, both physically and mentally. That is something that is hard to coach. That is what gives me confidence for this year. With a senior class like that, we can take off fairly quickly."

With the majority of its point production returning from the 2010 season, the Penn State attack will be one of the team's greatest areas of strength in 2011. Senior Jen Steadman and sophomore Molly Fernandez, the team's top two leading scorers a year ago with 45 and 40 points, respectively, will spearhead the unit. Working behind the crease, sophomore Hayley Sofarnos, who topped the team in assists with 18 in her rookie season, and senior Mary Dean have great vision and excel at feeding their teammates in front of the net. The attack was bolstered in the offseason with the addition of gifted newcomer Mackenzie Cyr, one of the nation's most sought after recruits.

Supplying offensive depth and versatility will be senior Megan Hollerbach, junior Bridget Callahan, and freshmen Avery Curley.

"We don't really have one type of attacker on the field, which is nice," said Doherty. "We have some great 1-on-1 players and we have some great feeders. It's a luxury to have that mix. We are not just a one-note offense. That will allow us to take advantage of some different things."

The midfield will also serve as a scoring source thanks to the offensive talents of senior Laura Lesnick and junior Theresa Zichelli, a duo that combined for 47 goals in 2010. Doherty describes Lesnick as a player "who can score whenever she wants to score" while Zichelli has netted 43 goals in her first two seasons as a Nittany Lion.

Maggie Dunbar

Seniors Maggie Dunbar and Jackie Eastman, an experienced duo that has combined to make 55 career starts, will be key to the transition game. Dunbar, a First Team All-ALC selection last year, is a high-energy competitor who is a force on both ends of the field while Eastman uses her blazing speed to shine as one of the team's best 1-on-1 players.

Sophomore Katie Guy and junior Aly Adams will fulfill a critical role in the midfield, serving as Penn State's top draw specialists. Junior Elaine Welch, a tall and physically strong player, and freshman Lizzy Carney, who had a standout preseason, will be counted on for regular contributions.

Freshmen Lauren Purvis, a rare two-sport athlete at Penn State, and twins Ali and Evan Foulsham will also compete for minutes.

While the defensive ranks are thin in terms of numbers, they are stout in respect to leadership and ability. Anchoring the unit will be senior defenders Ashley Boccio and Katy Wick along with junior goalkeeper Dana Cahill.

"Ashley and Katy have done a great job at leading the defense," said Doherty. "And another positive regarding our defense is that we have a terrific goalkeeper. Dana will be starting for the first time in her career but she has had a strong year so far. Our midfield provides an excellent defense as well, so they can fill in the holes if necessary."

Midfielders Maggie Dunbar, Jackie Eastman, and Katie Guy are all former defenders and have the versatility to make an impact anywhere on the field. Defender Brittaney Chamberlain, who played in a career high 12 games in 2010, and Colleen Shea will also provide the Lions with additional strength at the defensive end.

Promising goalkeeper prospect freshman Melissa Lloyd will serve as Cahill's understudy and will capably fill in if needed.



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