Women’s Lacrosse Poised For Success in 2015

Women’s Lacrosse Poised For Success in 2015

The 2015 Amherst College women's lacrosse team, under the direction of 21st year head coach Chris Paradis, returns 21 players from one of the most successful squads in program history, and is poised to make a run at the program's first-ever NESCAC title.

In 2014, Paradis guided Amherst to a program-record 19 wins with just three losses, en route to the team's sixth overall appearance in the NCAA Division III Championship semifinals. The trip to the Final Four was the Purple & White's first since 2004, and the NCAA postseason appearance marked the 11th time the team has earned a berth in national postseason play. 

Amherst opened the 2014 campaign with 14 straight wins, the best start in program history, and finished a perfect 10-0 at home. After reaching the NESCAC Championship title game for the first time since 2005, the Purple & White earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Following a first round bye, Amherst cruised past Bridgewater State in the second round, 20-4, followed by a 12-3 win against No. 13 York (Pa.). In the Elite Eight round, Amherst edged No. 4 TCNJ, 8-5, before falling to eventual national champion No. 2 Salisbury, 8-4. For her efforts, Paradis was named the IWLCA Berkshire Region Coach of the Year and the NESCAC Coach of the Year.

This season, Paradis will have to do without the services of five graduated seniors including Alex Philie '14 and Krista Zsitvay '14. Last season, Philie earned her third consecutive IWLCA All-America honor after being named a first team selection for the first time, while Zsitvay was named to the third team.  Elizabeth Ludlow '14, Annelies O'Dea '14 and Caroline Holliday '14 each played pivotal roles for Amherst during their careers and combined for 34 goals in 2014.

"Every season is a new one," Paradis said. "This team needs to find their own identity and are on their own journey this season."

In 2015, Amherst will look to its depth and experience to build on its historic 2014 campaign. With a group of six seniors, eight juniors, and seven sophomores, the Purple & White, ranked fifth in the 2015 IWLCA Preseason Top 20 Coaches Poll, are in prime position to make another NESCAC and NCAA playoff run.

"We are relying on those returners with experience to lead and play a role both on and off the field in setting high standards for excellence; taking care of the little things and what is in their control; and teaching the younger players what it means to be a part of Amherst Lacrosse," Paradis continued.

The 2015 slate begins on Saturday, Feb. 28 when Amherst hosts NESCAC foe Bates at 2 p.m. on Gooding Field. Amherst's schedule features six opponents ranked in the IWLCA Preseason Top 20 Coaches Poll.  

Following its season-opener against the Bobcats, Amherst travels to Babson (March 4) and to No. 15 Bowdoin (March 7), before returning home to take on Springfield on March 12. The squad then takes on Montclair State (March 16) and Haverford (March 18) during its spring trip, and will then host Hamilton upon its return home on March 21. Away tilts at No.3 Middlebury (March 28) and Wesleyan (April 1) set the stage for a showdown on April 3 when Amherst hosts archrival No. 11 Williams.  

The Purple & White then travels to Conn. College on April 11, before returning home for three of its final four regular season contests. Paradis's group will then host No. 9 Colby to begin a tough stretch, followed by a non-league home game against Mount Holyoke on April 15. A road matchup at No. 14 Tufts (April 18), and a home bout with No. 2 Trinity (April 22), rounds out the 2015 Amherst schedule.

With the departure of Philie and Zsitvay, Paradis will look to junior Rachel Passarelli to lead an experienced attacking unit. In 2014, Passarelli tied for the team lead in points with a second-best 42 goals and 11 assists. She was named Second Team All-NESCAC, and a First Team All-IWLCA Berkshire Region selection.

Joining her will be seniors Priscilla Tyler and Sarah Spector, and juniors Devin O'Connor and Mia Haughton. Tyler netted 25 goals and assisted on six others during her junior campaign, and was third on the team in draw controls with 37. O'Connor registered 19 points (10 goals, 9 assists) in 21 games played, while Spector highlighted her 11 points last season with seven assists. Houghton played in all 22 games as a first-year and found the back of the net 13 times and added 15 helpers in addition to picking up 19 groundballs.

Coco Kusiak and Jaqui Roth will look to build on their first-year seasons, while Julia Crerend '18 and Mary Grace Cronin '18 will provide depth at the position.  

The Purple & White's midfield will be anchored by another 2014 All-IWLCA Berkshire Region honoree in senior tri-captain Meghan Mills, who garnered second team honors after scoring 28 goals, notching five assists, collecting 29 ground balls and controlling 28 draws.

Joining Mills, Passarelli, and Houghton are Kate Wyeth '17, Claire Cagnassola '17 and Hanna Krueger '17 who will each look to bolster the Amherst midfield. Also looking to make an impact this season will be newcomers Kelly Karczewski '18 and Dakota Foster '18.

Amherst's greatest depth comes in the defensive third of the field. The Purple & White is led by senior tri-captain Kerry Fusco who was named Second Team All-NESCAC and First Team All-IWLCA Berkshire Region a year ago. Fusco picked up 32 groundballs and caused 25 turnovers – both second best on the team – in addition to providing three goals and an assist from her defensive position.

Senior tri-captain Heath Cockrell finished just behind Fusco with 21 caused turnovers, and collected 19 groundballs, while Krueger provided an immediate presence in her first season, causing 20 opponent miscues and picking up 25 groundballs. Katie Paolano '16 was also a force on defense, scooping up 16 groundballs and forcing 13 turnovers. Fiona Dearth '15 and Andrea Rijo '17 aim to break into the Purple & White's lineup this season.

Gina Lambiase '16, Katie Reilly '16, Emy Kelty '16 and Katie Kent '17 will each look to build on their seasons from a year ago, while first-years Olivia Rosenfeld and Rowena Schenck will also vie for playing time this spring.

Christy Forrest '16 returns for her third season between the posts for Amherst after an extraordinary 2014 campaign. Forrest, who was named Second Team All-NESCAC and First Team All-IWLCA Berkshire Region, was the nation's top goalkeeper a year ago with the lowest goals-against average (5.62) in NCAA Division III. First-year net-minder Kyra Gardner will look to provide depth at the position in 2015.