Johns Hopkins Women's Lacrosse Season Preview
2017 marks the beginning of a new era for the Johns Hopkins women's lacrosse program as the Blue Jays embark on their inaugural season in the Big Ten. After two years as an independent, Hopkins is back in a conference and it is arguably the toughest conference in the nation.
In a year of change, some things have remained the same as head coach Janine Tucker returns eight starters and five of her top seven scorers from last year's NCAA Sweet 16 squad. With a new league and a tough 17-game schedule, there are tremendous opportunities for the returners and the newcomers to make a name for themselves. Hopkins hits the ground running on February 15 with its season-opener at American.
"Haley and Maddie are outstanding leaders," noted Tucker. "They are an extension of the coaching staff and have been complimented by the entire senior class."
The Blue Jays graduated a big and experienced class as they lost seven seniors from last year's squad. Maddy Aldave, Kristen Cannon, Dene' DiMartino, Josie George, Kirsti Paavola, Jenna Reifler and Caroline Turco combined for 110 games played in 2016 alone. The group led the Blue Jays to 50 wins and three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. The class of 2016 played in a combined 405 games and totaled 280 goals, 99 assists, 325 ground balls, 371 draws and 162 caused turnovers.
Welcome to Homewood
Tucker welcomes ten freshmen to the Blue Jays this season. Joining Hopkins are Becca Boyle, Mackenzie Heldberg, Morgan Hendry, Caroline Hoeg, Eva Klaus, Robyn Lipschultz, Shannon Logan, Michelle Poirier, Maggie Schneidereith and Lexi Souder.
Hopkins is ranked in the top 20 in a trio of polls as it prepares for its 42nd season. JHU is ranked 15th in the Nike/US Lacrosse Poll, 18th in the Cascade Media Poll and 20th in the IWLCA Coaches Poll. Six of the Blue Jays' opponents this season are ranked in the top 20 by the IWLCA, including four that are in the top 10.
2017 marks the Blue Jays' first season in the Big Ten and Hopkins was picked to finish fourth in the conference's preseason coaches' poll. The top four teams in the final regular season standings qualify for the Big Ten Women's Lacrosse Tournament, which will take place at Maryland on May 5-7. The winner of the tournament earns the Big Ten's automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament. In addition, Schweizer, senior goalie Caroline Federico and junior attacker Emily Kenul were named to the Big Ten's Players to Watch list.
On the Attack
Kenul returns to lead the Blue Jay attack after finishing second on the team in assists (12) and points (43) last season. She also ranked fourth in goals (31) and second in draws (44). An all-region selection in 2016 and a go-to player for the Blue Jays, she is playing with even more confidence this spring.
Joining Kenul up top are Alexis Maffucci, CeCe Finney and Miranda Ibello. The lone senior on the attacking end, the Blue Jays will benefit from Maffucci's three years of experience, in which she totaled 31 goals and nine assists. Finney, a tall lefty, is starting to come into her own in her junior season. Ibello has a great stick and excellent vision on the field. She had a solid freshman season, leading the newcomers with 21 points (11g, 10a).
Also returning on the attack are juniors Chloe Duke, Eden Epner and Caroline Shinske and sophomores Nicole DeMase and Holly Logan. Joining the group are Schneidereith and Poirier. Junior Loring Gearhardt and Hendry are recovering from injuries.
Duke, the tallest player on the team at six-foot-one, uses her height to her advantage. She is extremely comfortable within the offensive system and is coming off a very strong fall. Epner is one of the hardest workers on and off the field and will do whatever she can to help the team. Shinske moved to attack after playing in the midfield her first two years. An unselfish player, she is one of the best off-ball players on the team and has really improved her stick skills.
DeMase, who will also see time in the midfield, brings a lot to the table as an attacker. She has an excellent split dodge and sees the field very well. She finished her rookie season with four goals and five assists. Logan has grown a lot from her freshman season and is starting to settle into the offensive system. She brings a lot to the table as a dodger and a shooter.
Schneidereith, another lefty, has great vision and loves to thread the needle to her teammates. A multiple threat, she also has the ability to get to the cage. Poirier is learning and growing in the system and will see more time as she develops.
Between the 30s
With five freshmen, the midfield is the area with the most youth for the Blue Jays. A three-year starter, Schweizer leads the middies and with the graduation of the program's all-time draws leader, she has honed her center draw skills. A true two-way middie, she makes things happen in the clear and the ride. She ranked third on the team in goals (34), points (42) and draws (22) last season.
Joining Schweizer are juniors Shannon Fitzgerald and Maggie Friel and Souder. Fitzgerald is one of the fastest players on the team and is ready for a breakout season. She has a knack for the draw and gets things done on both ends of the field. She should take some pressure of Schweizer as opponents must focus on her as well. She finished second on the team in goals (35) and free position goals (9) and third in points (42) last season.
Friel is extremely shifty and really makes things happen between the 30s. Her speed and ability to dodge make her a serious threat offensively. Souder is playing really well and has emerged as one of the team's best center draw specialists. DeMase is a versatile player and will see time in the midfield in addition to attack.
Klaus is excellent in transition and gets up and down the field. She hunts the ball well and should wreak havoc on opponents' clears. She is learning the Blue Jays' offensive system and understanding when and where to take her opportunities. Boyle is a quiet but hard-nosed utility middie. She has no fear going to the cage when she finds the ball in her stick. A real student of the game, she has learned a tremendous amount on the defensive side of the field as well.
Heldberg is a strong, power dodger with a hard shot and the coaches are still figuring out how best to use her in the Jays' system. Hoeg is a quick, shifty middie who understands the game. Another utility-style player, she has excellent game send and does all the dirty work.
Bodden is the quarterback of associate head coach Tara Singleton's defense. She started all 19 games last season and anchored a defense that allowed just 8.49 goals per game. She led the team with 27 caused turnovers and ranked third in ground balls (26).
Senior Nevi Fernandez is the Blue Jays' mark-up defender and will draw the opponents' top offensive player. Tough as nails, she takes the challenge of shutting down players to heart. She makes everyone around her better. A two-year starter, Fernandez ranked second on the team in ground balls (27) and caused turnovers (13) in 2016.
Senior Claudia Flister is Hopkins' face-guarding specialist and is tasked with taking an opponent out of the game. She has a really tough mindset and has worked hard to earn a starting role. Senior Lily Schmitt has battled injuries throughout her career and is finally healthy. She has fit nicely into the fabric of the defense and should surprise opponents this season.
Junior Emily Verica played in 18 games last season and has not missed a beat in coming back this year. A spit-fire defender, she is extremely competitive and will do anything for the good of the team. Sophomore Morgayne Rix is tall, athletic and very fast in the clear. She has a ton of potential and has made great improvements from her freshman year. Sophomore Alexandra Seward has grown leaps and bounds as a defender and Singleton is excited to work her into the mix this year.
Sophomore Lexee Pinsky moved from the midfield to the defense this year. She has a good stick and is learning the ropes on defense. She is the ultimate team player and will do whatever is asked of her. Shannon Logan got some good playing time in the fall and plays much bigger than her five-foot-two frame would suggest. Junior Annie Schindler will miss the season with an injury.
In the Crease
Federico returns after starting all 19 games and playing all but 22 minutes in 2016. She has played lights out this preseason and is making the most of every moment she has left in a Blue Jay uniform. Extremely competitive, she also brings a ton of energy to her defense. Federico boasted a .474 save percentage and an 8.55 goals against average, the fifth best in program history, last season.
Sophomore Haley Crosson is back in action after missing time due to an illness. Playing behind Federico, she saw limited time as a rookie in 2016. Lipschultz joined the team after the conclusion of the soccer season. A righty, she gives the team another look, as both Federico and Crosson are left-handed.