February 24, 2009

Gettysburg Rebuilds After Massive Losses

from press release

GETTYSBURG, Pa. - For the first time in a decade, the roster of the Gettysburg College women's lacrosse team will not feature a single returning All-American. What the 2009 Bullets do have, however, is a lineup of experienced and versatile young players ready to take on the opportunity to continue Gettysburg's legacy as one of Division III's premier women's lacrosse programs.

Graduation hit the Bullets hard in 2008 with the loss of four All-Americans and five All-Centennial Conference selections, including the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Association (IWLCA) Midfielder of the Year and CC Player of the Year, Katie Ceglarski.

This season's roster does not have an All-American, marking the first time the Bullets have been without a returning national award winner since 1999. Despite this fact, Gettysburg's lineup is no less threatening with skilled players aiming to pick up the mantle left by the previous year's class.

"When you lose players to graduation, it becomes other player's opportunities to shine," said Head Coach Carole Cantele. "I've already seen signs of players that are taking that quarterback role if you will...and assuming that role in ways they didn't have to or need to last year because of the depth in the senior class."

Cantele, entering her 17th year at the helm, has guided Gettysburg to an impressive record of 214-76 (.738), ranking her among the nation's top 10 active coaches (all divisions) in wins and win percentage. Last season, the Bullets won each of their first dozen contests before closing the year with a 17-4 record and the program's seventh-straight trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

While the primary forces on that team have moved on from the collegiate level, Cantele and the coaching staff is more than confident in the abilities of the remaining players.

"We're not going to accept that they are new and inexperienced when quite frankly every day at practice last year they were defending against great offensive players and vice versa. They were playing amongst some very good offensive players. That experience that they gained in practices certainly should play out this season."

Gettysburg put together one of the best offensive seasons in school history a year ago, averaging better than 15 goals per game. The top three point scorers are gone, but seven players that scored at least 10 goals all return, including second-team All-CC selection Hollis Stahl (Hightstown, N.J./Peddie School). Stahl led the Bullets and ranked fifth in the conference with 48 goals a year ago.

With Stahl likely to draw a fair share of defensive pressure from opposing teams, Cantele is looking to several up-and-coming players to assume a more prominent role on offense. One of those players is junior Nina Emala (Baltimore, Md./Bryn Mawr), who posted 15 goals and 16 assists in her debut season in 2008 and is primed to lead the attack from the top of the arc. Junior Lauren Woodman (Denver, Colo./Kent) has made significant strides in the off-season and could be a presence on the attack as well after netting 10 goals on just 15 shots last year.

Sophomore Heidi Bitter (Darien, Conn./Westminster) will aim to utilize her quickness and size to wreck havoc inside the eight-meter arc, while classmate Marnie Commins (Fairfax Station, Va./Robinson) could potentially drive the offense from behind the goal. Junior Grace Concannon (Columbia, Md./Oakland Mills), sophomore transfer Liz Lan (Chatham, N.J./The Pingry School), and first-years  Hannah Church (Ellicott City, Md./Mount de Sales) and Erin McCarthy (Linthicum, Md./Bryn Mawr) will also throw their talents into the mix on offense.

Traditionally, the midfield unit has been at the strength of the team, keying the transition game and playing a crucial role on the defensive side of the field. Junior co-captain Lexie Hearn (Old Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich) and junior Jessica Crane (Sudbury, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury) are the leading offensive producers in the midfield unit. Crane was fifth on the team with 42 points, while Hearn posted 20 goals on 30 shot attempts.

Additional contributors in the midfield include junior Erin Cushing (Alexandria, Va./Bishop Ireton) and sophomore transfer Allegra Formento (Princeton, N.J./Princeton), who played in 11 games for American University last season.

The defense has been the focus of the coaching staff in the early stages of the season. That's where the staff feels the team has taken the biggest hit with the loss of several key stoppers, including All-American Callie Gates and all-conference pick Kara Tammany.

"We're spending a lot of time there because we are looking for them to be very aggressive with their play, especially our goalkeeper," said Cantele. "We want to force our opponent's hand and create turnovers. We've been working on very patient defense, but aggressive - aggressive with your feet, aggressive with your body - not aggressive with your stick. Let the opponent make the error in judgment that we then take advantage of."

At the top of Gettysburg's defensive roster are a pair of returning starters in senior co-captain Sara Tolner (Pasadena, Md./Severn School) and junior Nicole Ditillo (Baldwin, Md./Fallston). Tolner has been a steady force in the backfield in her first three seasons and has played some of her best minutes against the best teams in the nation. Ditillo started all but one contest she played in and was tied for third on the team with 16 caused turnovers in 2008.

Several experienced players will join Tolner and Ditillo, including juniors Emily Gaffney (Skaneateles, N.Y./Skaneateles) and Anna Scanlan (Lutherville, Md./Roland Park Country School) and sophomore Becky Lutz (Madison, Conn./Daniel Hand).

Freshmen Lexi Kelly (Ridley Park, Pa./Agnes Irwin School) and Lauren Dadigan (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley) will also factor into the defensive mix.

The goal is one area of the field where the Bullets will have no shortage of depth and experience, led by 2008 All-CC Honorable Mention selection Kristen Krammer (Woodbine, Md./Glenelg). Krammer is in her third year as a starter and has seen just about everything this level of collegiate lacrosse has to offer.

"She is playing with great confidence and she's one you can really rely on," state Cantele. "Yet another reason we want to play an aggressive defense because if we do give up a little bit of a path to goal, she can stop it. She has good tracking ability and a good sense of where the shot is coming from."

Sophomores Laura McIntyre (Glenmoore, Pa./Coatesville) and Laura Block (Leesburg, Va./Foxcroft School) have proven they can step in front of the goal when needed. McIntyre allowed just 13 goals in over 250 minutes last season, while Block stopped all eight shots she saw on goal. Freshman Maddie Coleman (Lexington, Va./Rockbridge County) will also vie for playing time.

In and out of conference play, Gettysburg always manages to play the toughest teams it can find. The team opens with four tough non-conference games before moving on to the bulk of its conference slate. The schedule also includes a visit to Clark Field by traditional national power and fourth-ranked College of New Jersey on April 5.

"We open up strong for a purpose because we know the value of preparing us and seeing the reality of how we look," said Cantele. "I think Mary Washington and Rowan and Wesleyan and St. John Fisher are all very good teams in their respective regions and conferences. We will know who we are after playing those four teams and they will be fabulous precursors to what we are going to look like come conference play."

Gettysburg has finished runner-up to Franklin & Marshall College, slotted second in several preseason polls, for the conference title in each of the past two seasons, but that doesn't mean Cantele's crew has focused solely on beating their nemesis.

"It isn't about one game. It's about a collection of efforts everyday we're out on the field. If a player uses that as her intrinsic motivation while she's out at practice, that's her prerogative and if that works, I'm all for it.

"But I know that when we are approaching every practice it's about being better than we were the day before, staying true to what works and not focusing on a game or an outcome of a game," she added. "It's about taking what we've learned and putting it into play to the best of our abilities. The outcome will speak for itself. All we can control is who we are. We're not doing a lot of talking about any one team; it's really all about Gettysburg."

The 2009 season officially gets underway on Thursday, Feb. 26, when the Bullets host the University of Mary Washington at Clark Field. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m.

 


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