Middlebury Lacrosse 2014 Season Preview

On the heels of back to back NCAA semifinal appearances, Middlebury has no plans of letting off the accelerator this spring. Ranked third in the IWLCA national preseason poll after posting an 18-3 record and a runner-up NESCAC tournament finish with all three losses coming by a single goal a season ago, the team has lofty goals headed into the 2014 campaign.

Under the guidance of 33rd-year Head Coach Missy Foote, the 2013 Regional Coach of the Year, the Panthers return a deep and experienced squad in 2014. Five of the team's top-eight scorers from a season ago were lost to graduation from a squad that fell to Salisbury in the national semifinals, 8-7.

A pair of first-team All-Americans in attacker Ellen Halle (57-34-91) and midfielder Margaret Souther (39-22-61, team-bests 37 ground balls and 26 caused turnovers) along with attacker Emma Kramer (39-12-51) all graduated after providing a formidable punch at the top of the lineup. Also walking across the graduation stage were attacker Alice Pfeifer (15-15-30), middie Michaela Colbert (20-9-29, 23 GB) and defenders Heather Marrison (30 GB) and Nelie Weeks (26 GB).

Despite the loss of the aforementioned players, Foote is very excited about the upcoming season. "Everyone knows we graduated a big senior class that did so much for us," said Foote. "But, that is no different than past years where players have ended their collegiate careers and we have had others step up and fill those roles. We lost quite a bit but we also return a lot of very skilled and talented returnees who have a wealth of postseason experience under their belts."

When looking at the 2014 edition of the roster, Foote likes what she sees from top to bottom, especially in the midfield. "Our middies will be the team's strongest group with the most experience," said Foote. "They are very quick and skilled and really have bought into our offensive scheme where we like to put instant pressure on the opponent's defense."

Leading this group will be Katie Ritter. The junior, who was the 2012 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and a 2013 first-team All-Region honoree, appeared in all but one game last spring with 19 starts. She filled out the stat sheet with 25 goals, nine assists, 29 ground balls, 18 draw controls and 13 caused turnovers. Sophomore Laurel Pascal will move back to the Middlebury midfield from her attack position. Last spring, Pascal saw action in all 21 games with 19 starts. She produced 30 goals, three assists, 22 GB, 38 DC, and 15 CT. Others like sophomore Chrissy Ritter (16-5-21, 17 GB, 18 CT) and junior Catherine Fowler (50 DC) who started all 21 games will make for a seasoned lineup. Lexi DeMarco saw action in 13 games last spring and tallied five goals and four helpers, while Megan Griffin, a member of the Middlebury women's swimming & diving team, will join the squad after her season in the pool is complete and will provide depth.

The defense will feature many experienced players and will be anchored by a pair of senior co-captains in goalkeeper Alyssa Palomba and defender Hannah Deoul. Palomba got the starting nod in all 21 games last spring and was 17-3 with a 6.80 goals against average and 92 saves. Deoul, a second-team All-Region honoree last spring, finished the 2013 campaign with 36 GB and 15 CT. With the loss of Marrison and Weeks, players like senior Erin Benotti along with sophomore Maggie Caputi will look to fill those spots along side Deoul. In addition to Palomba, sophomores Madeleine Kinker and Katie Mandigo, who is a member of the women's hockey team, could also see some time between the pipes for the Panthers.

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