2015 Johns Hopkins Women's Lacrosse Season Preview
The Johns Hopkins women's lacrosse team has a great combination of newcomers and returners in the 2015 season. The Blue Jays count 18 returners from last year's squad that are poised to step in and keep the ball rolling after a 15-5 record a year ago. Head coach Janine Tucker wants the team to work on getting better every day and to write its own story.
The theme this year for Hopkins is "success by committee" as Tucker doesn't want to rely on just one or two players. The Blue Jays have shown a tremendous commitment to sharing the ball and finding a way to get the job done this fall and preseason. With the addition of a large freshmen class, Tucker has been really impressed with the upperclassmen and how they've welcomed their new teammates into the fold. For the Blue Jays, it is about embracing the skillset of your teammate, whether it is a freshman or a senior.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Senior goalie KC Emerson and junior middie Dene' DiMartino were selected as the captains for the 2015 Blue Jays in a vote of their teammates. Emerson is just the fifth goalie to serve as captain for Johns Hopkins.
The Blue Jays lost a strong senior class to graduation in Sammy Cermack, Taylor D'Amore, Kayley Henz, Liz Johnson and Sarah Taylor. Cermack, D'Amore and Taylor combined for 119 goals, 77 assists and 196 points last season while leading Johns Hopkins to a 15-5 record and the NCAA Tournament. Johnson meanwhile led a defense that allowed just 7.40 goals per game and ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense. Henz was unable to play last year due to injury but joined the coaching staff as a student coach.
Welcome to Homewood
Tucker welcomes 12 freshmen to Homewood this season and the class of 2018 makes up 40 percent of the Blue Jays' roster this season. Joining Hopkins this season are Chloe Duke, Eden Epner, CeCe Finney, Shannon Fitzgerald, Maggie Friel, Loring Gearhardt, Emily Kenul, Annie Schindler, Caroline Shinske, Anne Smith, Casey Van Slyke and Emily Verica.
Johns Hopkins enters the 2015 season ranked in the top 20 in a pair of preseason polls. The Blue Jays are ranked 16th in the IWLCA Preseason Poll with 95 points. In the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll, Hopkins is 17th with 50 points.
On the Attack
Senior Jen Cook and junior Jenna Reifler return to lead the Blue Jay attack this season after combining for 52 goals and 15 helpers in 2014. Cook scored a career-high 33 goals last season and brings a lot of options to the table for the Blue Jays. Tall and athletic, Reifler loves to set up her teammates, but Tucker is looking for her to up her game and go to the goal more this season.
Also returning on the attack this season are junior Maddy Aldave and sophomore Alexis Maffucci while Kenul, Duke, Smith and Gearhardt will join the group up top. Aldave played in 16 games last season and scored five goals, but Tucker said she is playing the best lacrosse of her career. She is playing with a lot of confidence and will lend strong support to the Jays' offense. Maffucci is a power attacker with a rocket shot and Tucker expects her to turn some heads this season.
Kenul will see time both on attack and in the midfield this year. She has slick stick skills and is a threat from the left and the right. At just five-foot-three, she plays much bigger than her size and will contribute right away. Gearhardt possesses a lot of skill sets and as she gets more comfortable with the speed and level of play, will bring a lot to the offense. At six-foot-one, Duke creates a lot of options for offensive coordinator Steele Stanwick and the Blue Jays. Smith comes from a strong high school and club program and it shows, as she has no fear on the field. Tucker says it is just a matter of time for her to break in and contribute to the offense.
Between the 30s
Returning to anchor the midfield are DiMartino, junior Kristen Cannon and sophomore Haley Schweizer. DiMartino is a dynamic and explosive midfielder and is really coming into her own as a leader. The Blue Jays' second leading scorer a year ago, she will be the focus of opponents' defenses in 2015. Cannon is an incredibly strong and powerful player, who is playing with a great deal of confidence. She has developed tremendous chemistry with DiMartino and Schweizer and has a great presence at the draw. Schweizer brings a lot of experience as a defender and in her clearing game as she makes the move to the midfield. She brings a lot of power to the offensive side of the field and is a real game-changer for the Blue Jays.
Also returning in the midfield are junior Caroline Turco and sophomore Natalie Soliozy. The Blue Jays will also be joined by a slew of freshmen in Epner, Finney, Fitzgerald, Friel, Schindler, Shinske and Van Slyke. Turco makes plays happen on either end of the field, and especially between the 30s. She brings a great spark to the team and comes through in clutch situations for her teammates. Soliozy has turned the coaches' heads in the preseason. She has a great work ethic and hustles all over the field and they are looking forward to seeing her in action this season.
Epner is very versatile and came back this spring with a new level of confidence. She is extremely coachable and Tucker expects good things from her. Finney transferred to Hopkins for the spring semester and is getting her feet wet with the Jays' systems. She could run some attack as well as midfield this season and the coaches are excited for her potential. Fitzgerald is one of the fastest players on the team and will be a tremendous asset in transition and between the 30s.
Friel also has great speed and will help in the transition game. As she gets stronger and more comfortable, the Jays are excited about what she brings to the table. Schindler is extremely athletic and has a lot of raw talent and Van Slyke is a scrapper, who is growing and learning the systems. Shinske will miss the season after suffering an injury in the fall. She is a hard worker and the coaches are excited for her return next fall.
On the defensive end, associate head coach Tara Singleton brings back a pair of starters in senior Octavia Williams and junior Josie George. Also returning are junior Kirsti Paavola and sophomores Maddie Bodden, Nevi Fernandez, Claudia Flister and Lily Schmitt. Freshman Emily Verica will be joining the Blue Jays on the defensive end as well.
Williams is a very strong defender with great feet and she can shut down opponents' stronger players. An unflappable defender, Singleton will rely on her to lead the defense. George is a very aggressive defender and is all business on the field. She is fearless and has a knack for getting ground balls. Another fast defender, she is quick to get the ball out in transition. Bodden is one of the smartest defenders on the team and is great at getting her stick on the ball. A true team defender, she makes things happen and brings a voice to the defense.
Fernandez is an incredibly hard worker and has tremendous footwork. She has improved her clearing ability and already possessing great speed, has put herself in the discussion. Flister is the Blue Jays' face-guard specialist and really understands the team's defensive sets. Very strong and quick and with a tough mindset, she will see time this season in the defensive 30. Paavola is one of the most consistent and reliable defenders on the team. An excellent communicator, she has great vision and Singleton will rely on her to run the defense with Williams. Schmitt, who has battled injuries, is working her way back. A very smart defender, she sees the field really well and plays great angles to give the Blue Jays some great options. Verica is very athletic and is fearless in the clearing game. She has great vision from the backside as a defender and in the clearing game. She is willing to learn and has played well so far, especially one-on-one.
In the Crease
The Blue Jays have a great pair of goalies to look to this season in Emerson and sophomore Caroline Federico. Emerson played 14 games and started 12 of those while posting a 7.07 goals against average and a .479 save percentage. Federico played in all 17 games and started eight in her rookie season. She posted a 7.24 goals against average and a .459 save percentage. Both have worked extremely hard on their clearing game as well as their eight-meter play and give Tucker two solid options in the cage.
At the Draw
With the graduation of two of its top three draw leaders from a year ago, Johns Hopkins has been working on its chemistry at the center circle this fall and preseason. Returning at the draw are juniors DiMartino (59 DCs), Cannon (14) and Schweizer (9), who are power options in the circle for the Jays. Also seeing time at the draw this season will be Finney, Epner, Duke and Fitzgerald. Duke brings great height to the circle while Finney, Epner and Fitzgerald have great skill at drawing the ball to themselves.
After 13 seasons in the American Lacrosse Conference (ALC), Johns Hopkins will compete as an independent this season. Since the Blue Jays no longer have an automatic bid to contest for, every game will count as they look to make the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
Lax in the Lone Star State
Johns Hopkins will open the season in the Lone Star State, as the Blue Jays will take on the Marquette Golden Eagles in Houston on February 8. Hopkins and Marquette will square off in the first Division I women's lacrosse game in the city, which is being played in conjunction with the University of Houston and Women Empowered. Their mission is to support and promote UH women's athletics by engaging in programs designed to enhance the overall experience for female student-athletes. Players from both teams will sign autographs after the game, with a free clinic to follow.
On the Tube
Johns Hopkins will have a pair of games televised by ESPNU this season. JHU's game versus Georgetown on March 21 will be live on ESPN3 and will show on ESPNU the following day. Hopkins will later host Maryland on ESPNU on April 15.
The Blue Jays return to Baltimore and open up their home schedule against the sixth-ranked Eagles of Boston College on February 14.