After saying goodbye to some of the best players in program history last spring, the SUNY Potsdam women's lacrosse team is ready to begin a new era with a different look. The Bears, who finished 5-11 overall and 1-7 in the SUNYAC, graduated seven players in 2012. Among them were four of Potsdam's top-10 scorers, including all-time scoring leader Carly Richards (147 goals -71 assists-218 points), and the Bears winningest goalie Kaci Milligan.
“They're definitely tough to replace,” said 11th year head coach Lauren Bruce. “But this year's seniors learned what positive leadership is from them and they've been waiting for their turn. So they're showing a lot of confidence and composure already.”
Bruce and first year assistant coach Elisha King are excited with what she sees from the newcomers as well.
“It's nice to have a lot of fresh faces because they bring new energy to the team,” Bruce said. “They're all very talented. They come from strong high school programs so they expect to win and make the playoffs.
The Bears return 12 letterwinners and add seven new players as they head into the 2013 campaign. Offensively, Potsdam looks to veterans to fill the voids left by Richards, Maribeth Simmons (30-4-34), Sierra Langkammerer (16-4-20) and Aubrey Macintosh (12-2-14). Sophomore Margaret Wall (28-3-31), and seniors Whitney Boshart (16-3-19) and Denise Johns (9-7-16) will be expected to lead the offense this season. The Bears strength lies on defense, where many veterans return. There, Potsdam will be led by 2012 Team MVP Erica Olsowske and second team All-SUNYAC selection Britanny Coffey.
Boshart and Johns will lead the Bears attack this year. Boshart started all 16 games last season, while Johns made 13 starts, but saw her minutes limited due to illness. Sophomore Bailey Weigel, junior Michelle Varney and freshman Bri McClusky will join the veteran duo up front. Freshman Maggie McCabe will also split time between the attack and defense. Weigel, who played lacrosse in high school and is currently a vocal leader and aggressive scorer for the Bears basketball team, sees the field well and has been a quick study in learning the team's offense.
Wall stands out offensively in the midfield, returning as Potsdam's second leading scorer. She made 14 starts in 16 games, collected 30 ground balls and totaled 20 draw controls. Sophomores Emily Petit and Katie Putnam bolster the Bears defensively at midfield. Petit is a two-way player that accumulated 11 points (9-2-11) and was second on the team in groundballs (38) and caused turnovers (15). Putnam played in 15 games and grabbed 11 ground balls. Senior Julie Perna makes the transition from attack to midfield after making three starts in 15 games there last season. Sophomore Carolyn Herrera is also back after playing in 11 games in 2012. Freshmen Brittany Blake and Lizzie Marchbanks join the midfield ranks this year.
Potsdam's defensive corps is experienced and talented. Olsowske made 15 starts in 16 games with 11 ground balls, eight caused turnovers and totaled seven draw controls. Coffey started 14 of 15 games, collected 20 ground balls and caused 14 turnovers. Also back are seniors Stephanie White and Renee McKay. White made eight starts in 11 games and caused six turnovers. McKay started seven games and saw action in 13.
Between the pipes junior Jen Chmiel steps into the starting role vacated by the graduated Milligan. The junior has seen action in 13 games, making 29 saves in nearly 240 minutes.
“Jen is a very athletic goalie and we're excited to have her as our starter,” said Bruce. “She worked closely with Kaci Milligan. She learned a lot from her and we're very comfortable with Jen in goal.”
Freshman Sally Mooney (New Albany, Ohio/Wyoming Seminary), fresh off a playoff season with the Bears hockey team, steps into the role of supporting Chmiel. Mooney gives Bruce an athletic back up option in goal.
The Bears continue to strengthen their non-conference schedule to go along with an already difficult SUNYAC slate. Potsdam hosts crosstown rival Clarkson in its season opener on March 6. The Bears then follow with non-conference matchups against Utica, Canton, St. Lawrence, Southern Maine and Morrisville. Due to the school's late spring break, Potsdam was unable to participate in the always well run Spring Fling Tournament in West Palm Beach, Fla. However, the Bears will square off with Southern Maine at the prestigious National Training Center in Clermont, Fla. on March 26.
Potsdam opens its eight-game SUNYAC schedule with a home contest against New Paltz on April 2. The Bears close the regular season with three straight battles with 2012 NCAA Tournament qualifiers Fredonia, Cortland and Buffalo State.