Feb. 9, 2006
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - For the Terrapin women's lacrosse team in 2006, it's all about balance. The team is not all about athleticism or speed, offense or defense. This year's group is about combining all of the various skills and phases of the game, and melding that with hard work and team chemistry to help Maryland pursue its goals.
"This team really enjoys each other and working together," says head coach Cindy Timchal, the winningest coach in women's lacrosse history. "We have a good mix of players with tremendous talents, and it's up to myself and the coaches to put the players in position to succeed."
Most of the experience on the team returns on the midfield and attack, headlined by All-American Delia Cox. Cox has started every game Maryland has played in her three years, and she will be counted on for leadership as well as her offensive punch. Another senior, Brooke Richards, is coming off a big offensive season and will captain the team along with Cox. In the midfield, a trio will continue their progression as elite players as junior Katie Doolittle and sophomores Kelly Kasper and Casey Magor benefit from significant playing time and impact in 2005. On defense, the Terps graduated All-American Greta Sommers, and will count on juniors Becky Clipp and Martha Raver to shut down the opponent's offense.
"I think, in general, we are a young team," Timchal says. "We have to see how this group responds to the tough situations we are bound to face when you play a schedule like ours. We are excited about those challenges and we will be prepared, and the girls are excited to get the season started."
For the Terps, balance starts on the offense. For a team that had six players tally over 40 points in 2005, this year's edition could be even more versatile.
"I'm very excited about the group we have on offense," Timchal says. "We have so many talented players that can put the ball in the net that it will be tough to stop. The key for us is our passing and to make sure we get the best possible shot. I'm not concerned about who's taking the shots, because I think we have plenty of great finishers who are able to do the job."
Controlling the offense from behind the cage will be Brooke Richards. Richards registered career-highs in goals (21), assists (21) and points (42) a season ago. An excellent feeder, Richards also has one of the strongest shots on the team, making her a top threat offensively.
Junior Krista Pellizzi missed fall action, but will see plenty of playing time in 2006. Pellizzi can run the offense from the top of the arc as well as attack the cage. Sophomore Katie Princiotto moved back to the offensive end after playing defense last season, and has proven to be one of the team's top finishers. Junior Mollie Reese is a poised and experienced attacker who combines a great ability to pass the ball in addition to her top-flight stick skills. This group, along with several midfielders who will jump in the offensive zone, give the Terps an offense that can compete with the best in the nation.
The Terp midfield is rich with talented players that can make plays all over the field. Delia Cox, a two-time All-America selection by Inside Lacrosse, will continue to draw attention from opposing defenses. Cox led all Terps with 35 goals last season.
"Defenses are going to keep trying to find ways to stop Delia," Timchal says. "She has some experience dealing with that over the past few years, and she has been very focused in the offseason adjusting to that. She has been very diligent about trying to stay a step ahead of what she'll see, as well as working on making the extra pass."
Junior Katie Doolittle, the team's fastest player, had a breakout year in 2005 pouring in 33 goals and nine assists in 19 starts for the Terps. Despite being second on the team last year in goals, Doolittle has continued to work on her finishing and, with her speed, will have a key role on defense as well.
Sophomore Kelly Kasper showed steady improvement throughout her freshman season, and will continue to build off that momentum in 2006. Kasper was one of Maryland's most dangerous scorers at the end of the season last year, and her competitive attitude helps make her a tough defender.
"Kelly has great intensity and passion," Timchal says. "She learned a lot in her first season, and she has a great appreciation for playing and has been working hard to have an even bigger impact than she did last season."
Casey Magor, who helped Australia to the 2005 World Cup in Annapolis, will take most of the draws for the Terps. Magor has great fundamental skills and is a key in transition for the Terps. Meghan Higgins will also see time in the midfield as well as being on the draw for Maryland.
"I think we have what a midfield should have: high skill level, speed and a commitment to playing the entire field," Timchal says. "Those players expect a lot out of themselves and are eager to prove something."
"We are definitely going to count on Becky and Martha for a lot of minutes, leadership and big plays on the defensive end," Timchal says.
Clipp led the team in groundballs last season and was second in caused turnovers. Raver's speed allows her to match up against quick offensive players, which helps stymie opposing offenses. Katie Pumphrey emerged as a solid defensive player last year as a freshman, but will be out of the lineup in the early part of the year with a knee injury.
What the Terps lack in experience, they make up for in athletic ability. Sophomores Lauren Cohen and Jen Greenberg bring their dynamic talents to the defensive side of the ball, and freshman Jenny Collins could also see time on defense as well.
"Allie has a good presence in the cage," Timchal says. "She is poised and talented, and has the ability to make game-changing saves. The coaching staff and the team have a lot of confidence in her." Backing up Buote will be a pair of newcomers in Lynne Cooper and Sarah Sommaripa.
New to the women's lacrosse game in 2006 are hard boundaries. This rule will put a premium on stick work and add a wrinkle to a team's philosophy on defending.
"The new rule will change the game a bit, but I think it makes it a better and more exciting game," Timchal says. "There are going to be changes on how we clear the ball and how we pressure the ball, which adds a new dynamic."
As always, the Terps will face a schedule that rivals any team's in the country. Maryland's strength of schedule in 2005 was fifth in the NCAA, and with a slate that includes 10 of the 16 teams that qualified for last year's NCAA Tournament (including all teams from the Final Four), the Terps will be tested throughout the year. However, Maryland will have the benefit of playing 11 of its 17 regular season games in College Park, not counting the ACC Tournament which will once again be played at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
"We're going to be tested, there's no question about that," Timchal says. "But all of those tough games are great opportunities for us as a team. We just have to work hard and prepare so that we can put ourselves in a position to be successful."
The Terps start out of the gate with the defending NCAA champions Northwestern Wildcats, who are coached by alum Kelly Amonte Hiller. After a pair of home contests against Ohio and George Mason, Maryland will face its first road test against defending ACC champion Duke.
Maryland returns to College Park for games against Richmond and Virginia before a non-conference matchup against Brown in Providence, R.I. The Terps then will be home for six straight games, highlighted by the annual ACC/Big 10 Challenge.
Before the ACC Tournament starts at the end of April, Maryland will have its longest road stretch of the season as it plays at Johns Hopkins, North Carolina and ACC newcomer Boston College. The Terps will conclude the regular season on the road at Princeton.
The NCAA Tournament Final Four will be played in Boston on the weekend of May 26-28.
"We have an exciting home schedule for fans to see," Timchal says. "Hopefully we can build some confidence at home that will help us face the challenges we meet on the road and in the postseason."