WATERVILLE, Maine --- The Colby College women's lacrosse team opens the season Saturday with plenty of talent on the roster and a new team joining play in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
The 10th-ranked Mules begin the 2012 season Saturday at noon against 17th-ranked Amherst College on Bill Alfond Field. The game will be Webcast at http://www.firstteambroadcasting.com/events/2012/03/10/womens-lacrosse-colby-vs-amherst/
Colby has been a dominant force in the NESCAC over the past five years, playing in five straight league title games and making the NCAA Division III Tournament in all four seasons under fifth-year head coach Karen MacCrate Henning. The Mules have made the NCAA quarterfinals in each of the past two seasons, but missed out twice on making the national final four.
Despite that success, Colby is ranked fifth among the record nine NESCAC schools in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) national poll. Bowdoin College is ranked fourth, Hamilton College is seventh, defending NESCAC champion Trinity College is eighth, and Middlebury College is ninth. Tufts University (14th), Amherst, Bates College (18th), and Williams College (20th) are behind the Mules. Connecticut College and Wesleyan University are the only two conference schools not ranked.
Hamilton has been a member of the NESCAC, but the Continentals did not play women's lacrosse in the league until now. Colby took a thrilling 6-5 win over Hamilton last year in an NCAA second round game. The Continentals took a 14-9 win over the Mules in an NCAA quarterfinal game two years ago.
The Mules will have eight of their top 10 scorers back from last season's 15-5 squad. Junior All-American Kate Pistel (Amherst, Mass.) is one of the best all-around players in the country. She is arguably Colby's top defender and has 55 goals and 18 assists for 73 points in her first two seasons. Pistel also has 59 draw controls, 55 groundballs, and 44 caused turnovers during her time with the Mules. Pistel just earned All-NESCAC First Team honors in squash and is a starter on Colby's defense in women's soccer.
Senior tri-captain Claire Donegan (Great Falls, Va.) is healthy after missing six games with an injury last year. She also is strong defensively, leading the Mules in caused turnovers (27) two years ago. Donegan, a former All-NESCAC and All-Region selection, has 49 goals and 62 assists for 111 career points. She still finished fifth on the Mules in scoring last year with 13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points.
MacCrate Henning brought in a very strong recruiting class a year ago, with numerous players making a huge impact in their first year of collegiate play. Lindsey McKenna (Fairfield, Conn.) was named the NESCAC Rookie of the Year and earned league second team honors after leading Colby in scoring with 43 goals and four assists for 47 points. Sarah Lux (Manlius, N.Y.) was third in scoring and first on Colby in assists with 11 goals and 24 assists for 35 points. Katie Griffin (Duxbury, Mass.) started last season off strong with 18 goals and two assists before suffering an injury and missing eight games. Meanwhile, Katharine Eddy (Cheshire, Conn.) led the team in draw controls (39) and contributed 16 goals and four assists.
The four first-year players gave Colby sharp and consistent shooting. McKenna scored on 43 of her 79 shots for a 54 percent shot percentage, while Lux had goals on 11 of her 19 shots (58 percent). Eddy was at 42 percent and Griffin was solid at 39 percent.
Junior attacker Tess Petesch (Rockville, Md.) already has some big goals in her career and finished last year with 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points. Hilary Barr (Ridgewood, N.J.) and Kirsten Karis (Southborough, Mass.) had the best shot percentages on the team last year among players with nine goals or more. Barr had 10 goals on just 15 shots (67 percent) and Karis, who also was a first-year player a year ago, had nine goals on 14 shots (64 percent). Lane McVey (Bronxville, N.Y.), a tri-captain, finished with six goals and four assists and teammate Alex Mintz (Mountain Lakes, N.Y.) also had 10 points with seven goals and three assists.
Lucy Gerrity (Cumberland, Maine), Dori McAuliffe (McLean, Va.), and Catherine Kahl (Alexandra, Va.) are other returnees from a year ago, either in the midfield or on attack.
The Mules lost All-American and All-NESCAC defender Lexi Crook and All-NESCAC defender Mary Cummings to graduation. Junior defenders Lisa Hoopes (Ipswich, Mass.) and Meg Mooney (Wellesley, Mass.) both started last year on defense. Kat McCarrick (Wellesley, Mass.), Sarah Large (Bow, N.H.), and tri-captain Ally Baker (Ridgefield, Conn.) are other returning defenders.
Colby's other major loss is at goaltender where Sarah Warnke graduated after starting for four years for the Mules. Sophomore Michelle Burt (Woodbridge, Conn.) and first-year Claire Dickson (Darien, Conn.) are battling for the starting job.
Sophomore Paige Pearson (Ridgewood, N.J.) is an attacker and a transfer student from Washington & Lee University. First-year players Lindsay McCabe (Weston, Mass.), Abby Hatch (Wilbraham, Mass.), and Sara Miller (Andover, Mass.) will see time in the midfield. Maddie Johnson (Greenwich, Conn.) is an attacker and Caroline Keaveney (Greenwich, Conn.) will play on defense for the Mules.