2011 Season Preview
The Virginia women’s lacrosse team welcomes 11 freshmen to its squad this year – the biggest first-year class under head coach Julie Myers. The Cavaliers also bring back 15 players from last year’s team that went 14-6 on the year, 4-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. With a core group of contributors returning and a large group of youthful energy added to the mix, the Cavaliers look to have the potential to make a deep run in the postseason.
Virginia’s attack will feature a wealth of experience this year. Redshirt junior Ainsley Baker and junior Josie Owen are back in the lineup after injuries cut their season’s short last year, and juniors Charlie Finnigan and Julie Gardner return to create an exciting and explosive offensive unit for the Cavaliers.
“Josie and Julie are some of the best attackers in the country,” Myers said. “Ainsley is one of the fastest attackers in the country and Charlie is just dynamic. All of them have great playing experience and with the return of Ainsley and Josie, it’ll be exciting to see them get back into the mix.”
Finnigan, Gardner and Owen all notched at least 50 points for the Cavaliers a year ago, while Baker contributed 16 points in just nine games.
In addition, Virginia can turn to sophomore Caroline McTiernan – who played in 18 contests and tallied 14 points, for experience, while sophomores Erin Laschinger and Claire Banta, and freshman Katie Slater round out what looks to be a solid corps of attackers.
The Cavaliers are going to revamp their midfield and have a whole new look in 2011. With the departure of All-Americans Kaitlin Duff and Brittany Kalkstein, Virginia is going to have to look to its newcomers to fill the gap between offense and defense.
“Everyone in the midfield is fast,” Myers said. “They come in on time to be able to help us in the attack as well as in the defense. But both our starters and our backups are inexperienced, and often times going to be first-year players. The midfield is young, but both ends of the ball are really solid and experienced.”
With sophomore Annie Thomas being the lone returning midfielder, the Cavaliers are going to have to rely on freshmen Liza Blue, Dana Boyle, Christie Donovan, Maddy Fabiani, Lauren Goerz, Maddy Keeshan, Leigh Ruland and Ashlee Warner to step up and fill the void.
“Everyone is going to have to do their thing,” Myers said. “We are going to make mistakes because we are pretty young and we don’t have very much game experience in some critical areas. But I do think that this is a team that will get better with every game.”
Virginia welcomes back an experienced defense, which features senior co-captains Liz Downs and Marghi Walters, in addition to junior Bailey Fogarty and sophomore Megan Dunleavy. Downs, coming off a season in which she earned All-America and All-ACC honors, will be expected to help shut down opponents’ top scoring threats.
“Liz anchors our defense,” Myers said. “She is one of the best defenders in the game. She is the voice and the glue to our defense, while Marghi is a big leader, a very vocal player. Megan is going to help with the athleticism and stick work coming out of the defensive end and Bailey is crazy aggressive. She makes a lot of good things happen. They all do really well together.”
The Cavaliers will also have the luxury of turning to seniors Molly McClintic and Boyd Vicars, junior Annie Taylor and freshman Meghan Helm to provide stability in front of the cage.
In goal, the Cavaliers welcome a familiar face in sophomore Kim Kolarik, while they will also have the addition of newcomer Liz Colgan to rely on. With stability and experience in front of the cage, Virginia looks to remain tough to permeate as the duo works to gain experience between the pipes.
“Kim has done a great job,” Myers said. “She makes a ton of saves and some really fantastic ones. She can really get things going by picking off passes and coming up with ground balls too. She is a really exciting goalkeeper to have.”
Kolarik played in ten contests last season, starting four.
The seventh-ranked Cavaliers will open their season this weekend, heading to No. 12 Loyola for a Saturday afternoon match-up. Virginia will remain on the road for two more contests, before returning to Charlottesville to host its home opener on Friday, March 4 against 2010 NCAA Champion Maryland. Of the 16 regular season contests on the schedule, seven will be played at Klöckner Stadium, while two will be doubleheaders with UVa’s men’s lacrosse team – Princeton (March 19) and Northwestern (April 30). The 2011 ACC Tournament will be held in Cary, N.C., on April 21-24.