The 2002 Amherst women's lacrosse team had big holes - and big expectations - to fill, following the graduation of All-Americans Alison Kitay '01, Kristin Osborn '01 and Sarah Scheessele '01, along with Jess Thaxton '01. They led the squad all the way to the 2001 NCAA Tournament championship game, and the returning team members expected nothing less out of their 2002 campaign. Using a balanced attack and a stringent defense, the 2002 squad powered its way into the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, thanks to a combination of talent and gritty determination. "We improved tremendously," said head coach Christine Paradis. "We overachieved given our youth, but not our talent." Amherst, ranked second nationally in the IWLCA preseason poll, kicked off what would become a dominating 2002 run with Spring Break wins over tenth-ranked Mary Washington College and 11th-ranked Salisbury University, before returning north to beat Colby and Bates Colleges by dominant margins. The squad suffered its first loss of the season against Middlebury College on April 6, but went on to win its final six regular-season matchups, culminating with a 9-7 win over archrival Williams College on April 27.
Holding the second seed in the NESCAC Tournament, Amherst was victorious over seventh-seeded Trinity College in the quarterfinal round before beating Williams for the second time in seven days in the semifinals. However, the squad fell to Middlebury in a hard-fought championship game, giving the Panthers an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Nevertheless, Amherst's season wasn't finished. After earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Paradis' club proved its might, streaking to a 15-8 win over visiting Colorado College on May 11, before taking down Union College 13-6 in the next day's Regional Final. The victory over Union landed Amherst in the NCAA Final Four for the second consecutive year, but that was where the 2002 ride would end. On May 18, a nail-biter of a game eventually gave way to a 10-7 loss to the College of New Jersey, moving the Lions into the championship game and ending Amherst's season. Overall, the squad racked up a 14-3 record and earned a third-place ranking in the season-ending IWLCA poll.
Amherst's biggest challenge in 2003 could be the rebuilding of its defense. Class of 2002 graduate Robin Ackerman, along with classmate co-captains Cara Coscarelli and Carrie Foster, combined to form the backbone of the Amherst defense. Coscarelli, who will return to the sideline as an assistant coach this season, racked up a slew of postseason accolades, including All-America honors, as a senior. Foster, a Regional All-America honoree, and Ackerman, who also served time in the backfield for the field hockey team, teamed up with Coscarelli to form a stingy line that consistently limited opponents' scoring opportunities.
Despite its considerable losses, Amherst's defense remains strong. Senior tri-captain goalie Brooke Diamond will lead from the net this season, a year removed from a 2002 campaign that earned her IWLCA Division III Goaltender of the Year honors. Capable sophomore netminder Olivia D'Ambrosio should also see some time between the pipes after notching several promising outings during her rookie year. Senior tri-captain Annie Jamieson will add experience to the mix as a returning starter. Junior defender Courtney Knowlton will also look for significant action this year, along with sophomores Jenna Swan Gross, Rachel Tranter and Chapin Giordano. After spending their junior seasons studying abroad, seniors BriAnne Watkins and Molly O'Connor will also add a vital element to Paradis' revamped defense.
Offensively, the news couldn't be better for Amherst, which returns its entire attack, led by All-America senior Abby Ouimet and senior tri-captain Erin Beaumont, along with classmates Mary Kate Allen and Laura Schifter. Juniors Liz Martin and Allison Aldrich also return after outstanding 2002 seasons. Ouimet led last year's offense with 46 assists, while Martin pitched in with 53 goals. Aldrich notched 27 scoring strikes in her sophomore season, and Allen locked in 25 of her own. Amherst will also look to junior middie Jackie Sargent to develop her 26-goal sophomore season into a dominant career. Junior Kelly Leisman, along with sophomores Kennon Kay and Cate Smith, will also vie for playing time on offense.
Amherst will add a balanced rookie class in 2003. First-years Sarah Coleman, Margo Nathan and Caitie Parker will join the defensive ranks, and Scotty Hanley will look to contribute on offense. Laura Brown and Margaret Chute, along with sophomore transfer Ashley Harmeling, will join the squad in midfield.
After a challenging southern swing over spring break, the squad will begin its 2003 northern campaign in the thick of the fight for the conference championship, matching up with NESCAC contenders in its first five games. Following a three-game opening homestand against Colby, Bates and Trinity Colleges, Amherst will head to Vermont for a defining test against 2002 NCAA Tournament champion Middlebury College on April 5. Amherst will pepper its schedule with regional rivals Wellesley and Springfield Colleges, before ending the regular season with an April 26 showdown at Williams College.
Women's Lacrosse Eyes Third Straight NCAA Final Four