Preview: Women's Lacrosse Deep and Experienced

Monday, February 24, 2014 - page 2

After being forced inside for all but the first day of practice, the Muhlenberg women’s lacrosse team was thrilled to have an outdoor scrimmage on Saturday. And perhaps no one was happier to see the green of the Scotty Wood Stadium turf than senior Kaitlyn McCaffrey.

Ally Shaffer
Shaffer's eight goals last season were two more than her career total coming into the year.
The second year co-captain set a school record for caused turnovers as a freshman and was named to the All-Centennial Conference second team as a sophomore. But injuries forced her to miss significant time each of the last two years. Now back to full health, she is eager to finish her career with a complete season.

And a successful season. The Mules, who open up the campaign at Gwynedd Mercy on Wednesday, return plenty of experience as they seek to qualify for the Centennial Conference playoffs for the first time since 2009.

“This is probably one of the deepest rosters I’ve ever been on,” said McCaffrey. “You can tell in practice. Everyone is competing for playing time. It brings the competitive nature out, which will be very good for us.”

The Mules ended the 2013 season with three straight wins, which was a good news-bad news type of streak. It was good to play well and close on such a high note, but because of a slow start, Muhlenberg did not qualify for the playoffs.

“We still talk about that Dickinson win,” said McCaffrey, referring to a 16-15 victory in the last week of the regular season. “We definitely want to carry over that momentum to this year.”

Carrying over from the last two all-region squads is junior co-captain Stephanie Umbach. The midfielder led the team with 72 points and 77 draw controls last year, leading the conference in goals per game, and will again be expected to contribute in multiple areas.

Senior Ally Shaffer made great strides last year, scoring eight goals, including the last-minute winner against Dickinson, and sophomore Arielle Sherman will move into a greater role after scoring six goals, mostly as a reserve, last year. Junior Allie Califano returns to the midfield after missing the entire 2013 season with injury.

Kelsey Mital
Mital made four starts for a Mule defense that recorded two shutouts last year, including one in a snowstorm against Merchant Marine.
Senior co-captain Michelle Certosimo will run the offense for the third year in a row. She ranked 22nd in Division III in assists per game last year and enters her senior season just 19 shy of breaking the school record for career assists.

Sophomore Casey Armstrong looks to be a threat again after setting a school record for freshmen with 20 assists last year. The attack will also be bolstered by the return of junior Kayleigh Thies, who sat out the 2013 lacrosse season and was an All-American in field hockey in the fall.

“We have awesome weapons on offense who can score whenever they want. We just have to make sure the other team doesn’s score more,” said McCaffrey. “We have a lot of experience, and it’s just a matter of finding the pieces that work best together. I definitely think we can bring our goals-against average down.”

In addition to McCaffrey, veterans on defense include seniors Kelsey Mital and Anna Provax, juniors Christina Vittorio and Alexandra Oberle and sophomores Amanda Orlak and Rachel Pedersen. All have started games in their Muhlenberg careers and will push each other for playing time.

For the first time in several years, that competition will extend to the cage. After going the last two seasons with a converted field hockey player at goalie, the Mules have three young players – a sophomore and two freshmen – contending for the starting nod.

“Having three ‘true’ goalies for the first time is a big plus,” said McCaffrey. “You can tell that they’re learning a lot and helping each other out. And they’re all good. I would definitely be comfortable with any of them back there.”

Freshman Kiersten Mulvey is the lone returning goalie, having played in seven games with one start last year.

The Mules have beefed up their non-league schedule to include games against Lebanon Valley, Montclair State and FDU-Florham, all of which won at least 13 games last year, as well as Rochester Institute of Technology, which received votes in the Division III preseason poll. The tough competition early on should help Muhlenberg in the always tough CC.

“We think we’re going to surprise some people,” said McCaffrey. “We think we can compete with anyone in our conference.”