April 23, 2009
By BILL WAGNER, Staff Writer
Caitlin Mandrin Hill has spent the majority of her lacrosse career stuck on the defensive side of the field. The St. Mary's High graduate is getting a chance to play offense this season, and she likes it.
Moved from line defense to a midfield role, Mandrin Hill has exploded for 24 goals and 23 assists to help Navy to a 12-4 record in just its second season as a varsity program. The Annapolis resident ranks second on the team with 47 points after totaling just 12 as a freshman.
"I have loved playing on the offensive side of the field. It's fun to have the freedom to go up and down the field, to be part of the attack and to score goals," Mandrin Hill said.
Mandrin Hill didn't get many scoring chances while playing line defense throughout her career at St. Mary's High. The tall, athletic 5-foot-10 youngster filled the same role as a plebe at Navy, leading the team in ground balls (55) and caused turnovers (24) last season.
However, the transfer of second-leading scorer Meg Decker to Loyola left the Midshipmen a little thin in the midfield. Head coach Cindy Timchal thought Mandrin Hill had the skill and athleticism to play the full field and the addition of several talented line defenders enabled her to make the switch.
"We felt CM was capable of playing a more critical role. She is a heads-up player who knows the game really well and has a great presence," Timchal said.
"I'm proud of how well CM made the adjustment. She is really stepping up and having a great season."
That was confirmed this week when Mandrin Hill was named first team All-Patriot League. The defensive midfielder scored game-winning goals against Canisius and Bucknell and had multiple-point outings in 14 of 16 games.
"When Coach Timchal told me I would be playing midfield I realized I would have to be in better shape. I've worked hard to increase my stamina and to make sure I have the legs to run the whole field," Mandrin Hill said.
Assistant coaches Kelly Coppedge
and Kristen Waagbo
, who were All-American attackers at Maryland and Duke, respectively, have helped Mandrin Hill improve her shooting skills.
"For most of my career, I didn't even practice shooting since that wasn't my role," she said. "This season has kind of been like a crash course in how to shoot and where to place the ball. Coach Coppedge has taught me how to take a free position shot and Coach Waagbo has stressed sometimes faking once or twice before shooting."
While her offensive role has increased, Mandrin Hill has not forgotten her defensive responsibilities. She often marked the opponent's top offensive midfielder and has been a back line leader of the nation's sixth-ranked scoring defense (8.14 goals per game).
Mandrin Hill once again led Navy and ranked second in the Patriot League with 33 caused turnovers. She also gobbled up 25 ground balls and captured 23 draw controls in being named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week five times this season.
"I think coming from a basketball background has given me a good knack for it," Mandrin Hill said of her ability to create turnovers and win loose balls. "I can anticipate where the ball is going to end up."
Mandrin Hill, who also lettered in basketball, volleyball and cross country at St. Mary's, was encouraged to consider the academy by close friend and high school teammate Mary Ruttum. When Navy announced it was elevating women's lacrosse to varsity status, Ruttum was among the first recruits to commit and is now a junior midfielder who ranked third on the team in scoring with 40 points.
"I wanted to go to a school where I could make an impact in lacrosse and also get a top-notch education," said Mandrin Hill, who was also recruited by George Washington. "I like that the academy forces you to focus and motivate yourself. It mentally and physically makes you stronger and you are always being pushed to your next potential."
The Midshipmen will need Mandrin Hill to be on top of her game in order to pull a couple upsets and capture the Patriot League Tournament, which begins tomorrow in Hamilton, N.Y. Third-seeded Navy opens with a semifinal match against No. 2 Lehigh, which won the regular season meeting 11-7. Looming on the horizon is host and top-seeded Colgate, which hammered the Mids 10-4 on March 28.
"Lehigh and Colgate both beat us soundly on our home field and have demonstrated all season why they are the one and two seeds," Timchal said. "We struggled with clearing the ball and generally taking care of the ball under pressure in those two losses. However, I think we've come a long way since then and have really improved in those areas of the game."
## GO NAVY! ##