Feb. 7, 2010
In its first season as a varsity program, Navy women's lacrosse surprised many by qualifying for the Patriot League Tournament in 2008. Last season, the Midshipmen proved they were no one-year wonder by placing second during the regular season and reaching the conference championship game.
With 10 returning starters bolstered by 16 talented freshmen, head coach Cindy Timchal thinks Navy can take the final step and capture the Patriot League Tournament title and earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
"We're incredibly excited about the prospects for this spring," said Timchal, who boasts a phenomenal 26-9 record after two seasons at Navy. "We bring back our most experienced group yet, and with a few years of recruiting now under our belt, this is the best depth we've had here. I definitely feel we have developed a strong program that can vie for a Patriot League championship."
Navy is picked to finish in a tie for second with Lehigh behind two-time defending champion Colgate in the preseason Patriot League poll. Colgate, which suffered significant losses but returns three first team All-Patriot League selections, routed Navy 17-4 in last year's tournament final.
"Colgate has certainly been the class of the league the last two seasons and certainly deserves to be the favorite," Timchal said. "There is an awful lot of parity in the league behind Colgate. We only beat Lehigh, Bucknell and Holy Cross by a goal last season. American is also right there in the mix. It will be a challenge to finish in the top four and make the tournament."
Navy returns four players that earned All-Patriot League recognition in attacker Erin Rawlick
, midfielder Katrina Nietsch
, defender Caitlin Mandrin Hill
and goalkeeper Elaina Ponchione
. Rawlick has led the league in scoring each of the past two seasons, totaling 91 points in 2008 and 92 points in 2009.
"Erin has gotten better every year so I expect her to have a phenomenal senior season," Timchal said of Rawlick, who gained confidence by training with the United States Development team this past summer. "She just has an amazing knack for scoring. She has exceptional stick skills, is aggressive going to the goal and is a real finisher."
Mandrin Hill, a junior out of St. Mary's High, was selected as the Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. The 5-foot-10 Annapolis resident was a first team All-Conference pick last season after leading Navy and finishing second in the Patriot League with 34 caused turnovers. She has shown the ability to transition from defense to offense, scoring 24 goals and dishing off 25 assists in 2009.
"Caitlin has great size, great awareness and great instincts. She reads plays extremely well and anticipates where the ball is going to be," Timchal said.
Nietsch, who totaled 36 points on 26 goals and 10 assists, will anchor the midfield despite undergoing offseason knee surgery. The junior from Connecticut has tremendous speed and is dangerous in transition.
Ponchione gave Navy an upgrade in the goal a year ago and finished with a .482 save percentage and 8.78 goals against average. However, the Good Counsel product is being pushed by a pair of plebes - Michelle Verbeeck (Wading River, N.Y.) and Dani Wiedmeier (Miramar, Fla.).
Navy returns another high-scoring attacker in left-hander Mary Ruttum, a senior out of St. Mary's High who fired in 30 goals last season. "Mary is a real keystone to our attack. You always need a lefty and she's a good one," Timchal said.
Improved depth has prompted Timchal to form multiple midfield lines this season and the first unit currently consists of sophomore Madison Bell and freshmen Kathy Young and Jasmine DePompeo. Nietsch will anchor the second unit along with junior Lexi Dauernheim and freshman Beth Young.
Timchal foresees playing as many as 10 plebes, including three local products - defender Emily Mellin (St. Mary's), midfielder Claire Olechowski (St. Mary's) and attacker Kori Wilke (Severna Park).
"Our early success has enabled us to attract some real quality players. I am extremely excited about the talent in this freshman class," Timchal said.
Timchal, whose 362 career victories make her the all-time leader in NCAA women's lacrosse, said she's never been more passionate and energetic entering a season.
"I'm still going strong and I feel great about the program we are building here at Navy," said Timchal, who led Maryland to eight national championships. "In just three seasons we have been able to create excellent depth and athleticism. Our goal is to out-run, out-work and out-hustle our opponents. We pride ourselves on showing tremendous toughness and tenacity."