Practice pennies, neon green laces, new faces and the promise of a new season not far off -- all signs point to fall ball, college lacrosse's annual rite of initiation.
With 2010 in the books and 2011 in mind, LMO's "Fall Ball Blitz" series checks in with coaches and players around the country for the latest developments.
RECENT "FALL BALL
BLITZ" STORIES | ARCHIVE
Lock Haven Embraces NCAA Title Expectations
by Paul Ohanian | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Two-year starter and All-American Katie Zichelli anchors Lock Haven's defense.
© Brendan Bush
Coming off a national runner-up finish against Adelphi in 2009
and another appearance in the NCAA Division II semifinals last
spring, the Lock Haven women's lacrosse team comes into the new
year pointing to just one thing: a national championship.
And unlike many coaches, Lock Haven’s leader, Kristen Selvage, is not afraid to voice that sentiment.
“That’s our entire motivation,” said Selvage, now entering her 10th season at Lock Haven. “That’s the backbone of it all.”
Selvage has a veteran squad that is entirely capable of achieving that lofty goal. Lock Haven is coming off back-to-back Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championships and has come tantalizing close to the reaching the top of the mountain the past two years. The disappointing endings now serve as fuel feeding this year’s fire.
Selvage admitted that the Eagles may just have been “happy to be there” in 2009 when they reached the NCAA final against Adelphi. “I think there was an element of, 'Oh cool, we’re here,' that season,” she said. “Adelphi didn’t see the real Lock Haven.”
Last spring was even more disappointing, falling in overtime to West Chester in a national semifinal just three weeks after laying a 10-goal drubbing on the Rams in the PSAC final. Selvage was ready to lock that loss in the vault before her players dictated otherwise this fall.
“There was still too much pain there and some unaddressed issues,” Selvage said. “I thought we might be able to sneak past that discussion, but the players, including the freshmen who weren’t even a part of the loss, wanted to talk about it and learn from it. We weren’t together long enough [following the semifinal loss] to mourn it. We came back to campus, said our goodbyes, and everybody went home. So we dealt with it this fall.”
With practice now underway, Selvage said she sees a team that appears invigorated rather than deflated by the near-misses of the past.
“Everybody worked hard all summer, played a lot of lacrosse, and everybody got better,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to master the things we need to do. We’re prepared for success.”
Despite the loss of all-time leading scorer Leigh Titus, there is plenty of offense returning this year, including eight of the top nine scorers from 2010. Senior Allison Berger is coming off a 93-point campaign (42g, 51a), while junior Kayleigh Johnson has 112 goals through her first two seasons.
LHU seems equally settled on the defensive end, with senior Katie McConnell and junior Katie Zichelli anchoring an experienced unit. The Eagles need a new goalie, but Selvage is pleased with the options that she has at that position as well.
“There’s not much that I’m worried about,” Selvage said. “We really have a lot of returning talent. At this point, it’s just a matter of playing, fine-tuning, playing, fine-tuning.”
FALL BALL BLITZ
Team: Lock Haven (women)
2010 Record: 16-2 (9-1 PSAC)
2010 In Review: The Eagles captured their second straight PSAC championship and were an overtime loss away from a second straight appearance in the national championship game. Lock Haven opened the season with 14 straight wins before a one-goal loss at Mercyhurst on April 24. The Eagles rebounded by winning the conference tournament a week later, including a clinching 16-6 victory over West Chester. Three weeks later, WCU returned the favor by rebounding from a five-goal deficit to defeat Lock Haven 9-8 in overtime in the national semifinals.
Goodbye… Leigh Titus. A four-year
starter and three-time All-American, Titus finished her career as
the PSAC’s all-time scoring leader. Titus tallied 269 career
goals, including a team-leading 73 in 2010. She also finished as
Lock Haven’s all-time leader with 369 career points and third
on the school’s career assists list with 100.
Hello… Jessica Pandolf. It didn’t take the freshman midfielder from Holbrook, N.Y., very long to catch the coach’s eye -- one fall scrimmage, to be exact. Selvage called Pandolf the team’s “golden nugget” and a possible heir apparent to Titus. “She did some nice things offensively and defensively, and she never stopped running,” Selvage said. “She turned it on right away.”
Offseason Developments: Selvage hired former Penn State standout and U.S. national team member Jessica Lieb as the Eagles' new assistant coach. Lieb, a former member of the U.S. World Cup Training Team, most recently coached youth lacrosse in Radnor (Pa.) Township.
Big Question: With the graduation of Kira
Nuttall, who started all 18 games in goal last season, the Eagles
must settle on a new starter. The battle is between a pair of
juniors -- Heather Sacko and Nicole Necci -- who are also best
friends and revel in each other’s successes as much as their
own. “Both will play and both are very good goalies,”
Selvage said. “Heather may be a bit ahead right now, but
Nicole is catching up quickly.”
Fall Schedule: The Eagles began fall play with mini-games against St. Francis, Bucknell and Bloomsburg on Saturday. Lock Haven continues the fall season at the St. Bonaventure Playday this Saturday (Oct. 2), at the Downingtown Fall Classic on Oct. 9, and closes with its alumni game on Oct. 16.