Feb. 19, 2008
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Navy women's lacrosse coach Cindy Timchal is not hiding her feelings as the inaugural season of the Navy women's lacrosse program continues its countdown to the opening draw control. After all, Timchal knows all about success and feels the team can reach its goals in its first season of competition.
"It is definitely exciting to be part of the inaugural season here at Navy. I have seen much improvement since we opened camp in mid-January," said Timchal. "We definitely have our work cut out for us, but I am excited with what I have seen. Our goal is to compete well and put ourselves in a position late in the year to be playing our best lacrosse and hopefully, make a run in the Patriot League Tournament."
The reason for the optimism stems from a strong offensive attack that will be bolstered by a solid freshmen class that serves as Timchal's first recruited group. It's a group that will lay the foundation in the opening years of Division I women's lacrosse in Annapolis.
"I know it's a cliché, but if we take one game at a time and treat each game as a learning experience, this team can be successful," said Timchal. "We need to balance ourselves and get consistency from our younger players to do that. You can't win the Patriot League Tournament unless you get into the tournament first."
The Mids will have a very formidable offensive attack, headlined by senior Kaylene Klingenstein and sophomore Mary Ruttum in the front.
Klingenstein, a local player from Beltsville, Md., had a strong junior campaign, before a torn ACL sidelined her for the final 11 games. Nonetheless, Klingenstein scored 34 goals and 45 points in just 12 games last year. She is now 100 percent healed and will give the Mids an outstanding front-line scoring presence.
"She is back to 100 percent and really playing well in practice," said Timchal. "Her injury has made her stronger and more consistent and she should have a good offensive year for us. She really helps shore up our attack for us."
Ruttum, a sophomore from Annapolis, gives the Mids a left-handed attack with good size that can see over the defense. She ranked third on the team in scoring a year ago with 95 points (65 g, 30 a) and excelled early in the season.
"She has the size to find other players and is very good around the goal," said Timchal of the former high school basketball player. "She has great scoring ability and should have a solid year for us."
Other front-liners that will strengthen Navy's offensive attack include juniors Valerie Cappelaere (14 g, 1 a) and Sarah Bushong (11 g, 3 a) and sophomore Brittany Amerau (7 g, 0 a).
The deepest position on the team, the Navy midfield unit should carry the majority of play on both offense and defense this year for Timchal.
"We will have a young midfield with our key players being a senior, a sophomore and three freshmen, but it should be very good," said Timchal. "Offensively, we feel very good about this group and they will definitely help us out on the defensive end. The main group will log a lot of minutes and hopefully can stay healthy. They have the potential to be a very good group this year."
Leading the charge is the 2007 USL / WDIA Midfielder of the Year Amanda Towey and USL / WDIA All-American Erin Rawlick, the lone freshman named to any of the All-America squads last year.
"Amanda and Erin had fantastic seasons last year and can do a lot of outstanding things on the field," said Timchal. "They are obviously very good offensive players, but their defense has improved and they will really help us on that end. We need them to be leaders on both ends of the field for us."
Towey led the Mids in scoring a year ago with a whopping 128 points (71 g, 57 a). She scored at least six or more points 14 different times last year and scored nine points in a game two times last spring.
Rawlick, who has been slowed in the preseason by a concussion, was second on the team with 127 points (91 g, 36 a). She scored at least 10 points in four straight games late in the season and totaled 27 points (21 g, 6 a) during the USL / WDIA Tournament.
The duo will be aided by a trio of freshmen in Meg Decker, Caitlin Mandrin Hill and Katrina Nietsch. Decker appears to be the most polished of the three, but all of them will give the Mids added depth in the midfield, especially offensive.
"All three of them will give us a spark offensively. They are all very sound with the ball," said Timchal. "They will go through some growing pains, but this trio will be a very important group for us this year and down the road."
In all, Timchal has 11 midfielders on the roster.
The position with the most question marks on it will be the defense. Last year, the Mids allowed their four Division I opponents to average 15.5 goals per game, and the Mids held just one Division I foe, Howard, to 13 or fewer goals in a contest.
"Early on, our defense definitely needs to be our focus," said Timchal. "We have had a tough time clearing the ball in the preseason and until that gets fixed, it's going to tough for us to stop people. We'll get the initial stop, but until we clear effectively, we will have a tough time defensively."
Leading the defense will be senior Jessie Rosa, junior Margaret Gardner and sophomores Maggie Morton and Brittany Winters. All three of them saw significant action last year and Timchal is hoping for improvement from the trio this year.
The midfield position will also aid in the defensive effort as Rawlick and Towey both played solid defense a year ago and Decker, Hill and Nietsch provide speed throughout the whole field.
"The defense can become a strength for us, but they just need to play with confidence and play together as a group," said Timchal. "I have confidence that this group will get better as the year goes on and they gain experience. It will be important for us early on to be able to win draw controls and execute offensively."
Last year's goalies had an up-and-down season, and Timchal is looking for more consistency in 2008.
Senior Natalie Blandon appears to be the frontrunner for the starting role after registering 175 saves a year ago for a save percentage of .526. She made 14 stops in a loss to Division I Bucknell, and had double-digit saves six times a year ago.
"Natalie at times can look like the best goalie in the countryand can really provide us some strong senior leadership back there," said Timchal. "If she can develop more consistency, she can have a very good year for us."
Sophomore Vanessa Nieves appeared in a reserve role, but stopped 33 shots for a save percentage of .508. She was the goalie of record in the Mids' first win over a Division I foe, 14-13 over Howard on April 3, by stopping seven shots. She also made 10 saves in the USL / WDIA National Club Tournament semifinals win over UC Santa Barbara.
While the Mids will have the advantage of playing the majority of their games at one of the best venues in the country, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, it will by no means be a walk in the park.
Navy will open its 2008 campaign with five straight home games, including a contest against fellow Division I newcomer, Cincinnati, on March 8. A contest made interesting in that several of assistant coach Allison Valentino's players at Ohio when she was the head coach, transferred to the Bearcats.
"Cincinnati will be a tough contest for us in the sense that they are in the same boat as us," said Timchal.
In addition, Navy's fifth home game in that stretch and first Patriot League game in school history will come against two-time defending champ Holy Cross on March 15. The Mids will hit the road the following weekend against Colgate, a team that represented the Patriot League in the NCAA Tournament in 2004 and 2005.
The next weekend, the Mids host American, a team that features both the reigning Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in the Patriot League.
"We have a few games that can really go either way," added Timchal. "This schedule gives us a chance to get some wins and gain some confidence as the year goes on, but it is still challenging enough in that if we don't play well, we will get beat. It should be an exciting year and one that I hope we can improve in as we move forward with each game."
# GO NAVY #