Feb. 10, 2011
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Still riding the wave of momentum from its first national championship since 2001, the Maryland women's lacrosse team is reloaded and refocused for another run at dominance in 2011. Reigning IWLCA National Coach of the Year Cathy Reese has this year's Terps looking forward while leaving the past in the trophy case.
"Our big focus as a team is on 2011...we are a different team, we are a different group and our journey is going to be different than last year," Reese, who is entering her fifth season at the helm of the nation's top program, said. "Every year is different. For us, we are focusing on the now. No looking back and no looking ahead. I'm all about us being the best we can be each day."
While the program carries a longstanding tradition of excellence with 11 national championships to its name, Reese emphasizes how integral it is to replace graduated seniors, such as 2010 IWLCA All-Americans Caitlyn McFadden and Karissa Taylor, with players that understand what Maryland lacrosse represents.
"One of the unique and really special things about Maryland lacrosse is we have a whole team of unique and valuable players," Reese said. "We are going to have an offense where seven players can score and a defense that plays together and be better than anything we've seen. We are working to gel to be the best team we can be."
Below is a breakdown of each unit on this year's team. Maryland travels to Richmond Sunday to open the 2011 campaign.
Mollison, a two-time All-ACC selection and a member of the Australian National Team, is serving her second term as captain. Known for her excellent passing ability, Mollison racked up 75 points in 2010 on 45 goals and 30 assists. The senior needs only three helpers to land on Maryland's top ten list for career assists.
"She's played in World Cups...she has loads of experience that enables her to flourish as a leader on the offensive end for us," Reese said. "She's fast and she's a competitor with the ability to generate tons of offensive opportunities."
Maryland can once again claim Lacrosse Magazine's Preseason National Player of the Year as Johnson was tabbed the publication's top pick after 2010 Tewaaraton winner Caitlyn McFadden captured the honor a year ago. Johnson has been nothing less than spectacular since her arrival to College Park two years ago. The junior from Annapolis, Md., is a two-time IWLCA First Team All-America pick and is six goals-shy of appearing on Maryland's career goals list.
"She's amazing," Reese said. "She has an eye for the back of the net. She has great stick skills and her ability to get open - I just haven't seen it in any other player before. She finds a way to get the job done. We are looking forward to having others follow her lead."
Seeing increased action up-top this season will be Kristy Black and Alex Aust. Both attackers are likely to contend for starting nods in 2011. Black, a junior, has been one of the first players off the bench for Reese the past two seasons and Aust saw significant playing time as a freshman for the national title squad in 2010. Black, while playing in every game last season, registered a career-high 17 goals and Aust chipped in nine.
"Colleen is a great passer," Reese said. "She sees the field very well."
Despite the loss of four-year starter McFadden, Maryland has plenty of talent returning in the midfield, including seniors Laura Merrifield and Brandi Jones and sophomore Katie Schwarzmann. Merrifield, a captain and a member of England's National Team, is a tremendous dodger and a towering threat to opposing defenses. Jones is a three-year starter with a great deal of speed that aids the Terps on both sides of the field.
"Laura's overall work ethic and ability to lead by example is really second to none," Reese said. "Brandi is just so quick and enables us to move the ball down the field with both efficiency and speed."
Schwarzmann was recently tabbed to the U.S. National Team as only a sophomore after being named an IWLCA Second Team All-American in 2010. The ACC Rookie of the Year had a monstrous first season in College Park, tallying 44 points on 33 goals and 11 assists.
"She's such a great midfielder, one of the best I've seen," Reese said. "She's so fast and got great stick work. I think we'll see more of her stepping up this year. She's one of the best players in the country and she's going to show it this year."
A classmate of Schwarzmann's, Danielle Kirk will also play a key role in the midfield this season after playing in 12 games for the Terps as a rookie.
Two highly-touted freshmen are also on Reese's radar. Beth Glaros and Brooke Griffin came to Maryland as two of the top recruits in the nation. Glaros already earned a start in Maryland's preseason tilt against the U.S. National Team in late January in Orlando. Unfortunately, Griffin will sit out this season due to an injury suffered last fall.
Katie Gallagher returns to lead Maryland's defense in 2011 after missing the majority of the 2010 campaign after to an inspirational battle against Crohn's Disease. A healthy Gallagher is now in her fifth season with the Terps and is poised to pace this year's defense both on the field and off after being named a captain this fall.
"We are thrilled to have Katie back this season," Reese said. "She is an outstanding leader on the defensive end for us and one of the best defensive players in the country."
A three-year starter and strong defender in her own right, senior Brittany Poist will help anchor the Terps' defense. The senior joined Schwarzmann as the latest Maryland additions to the U.S. National Team and tallied a team-best 43 groundballs in 2010.
"Brittany is going to be a key component of our defensive scheme this spring," Reese said. "Her experience with the national team will pay dividends to her leadership and capability to help assemble our defense."
After a tremendous second half of the season, which included a key, momentum-shifting interception in the national championship game, sophomore Iliana Sanza will also vie for a starting role in the unit.
Senior Sara Cooper has been steady for Maryland and her athleticism and fitness will help the young unit. Kristen McAfee, a junior who also competes for the women's soccer team, will also provide depth at the position as a strong communicator with great direction and the ability to read a play as it develops.
Other defenders that will help the Terps to pick up right where they left off a year ago as the top defense in the land include juniors Elizabeth Hamilton, sophomores Sam Barber and Melissa Diepold, and freshman Annie Farrell.
One position for Maryland which hasn't skipped a beat from last season is goalie. Junior Brittany Dipper returns for her third season as a starter. Dipper, who tallied a career-best 15 saves against the U.S. National Team in an exhibition in January, surrendered 7.35 goals per game for the national champs in 2010.
"She's coming in as her third year in a starting role and really stepping her presence defensively," Reese said. "She's really going to anchor our defense from the goal."
Dipper is backed up by one of the best reserve goalies in the country as Mary Jordan enters her junior campaign at Maryland. Jordan provides invaluable experience at goal and gave up a mere 25 goals in 12 appearances last season.