Loyola Picked to Win Women’s Patriot League

Loyola slide

After rolling to the championship in its first two seasons in the Patriot League, Loyola University Maryland was predicted to do it again as the unanimous first-place choice of opposing coaches and sports information directors in the women’s lacrosse preseason poll announced on Thursday.

The Greyhounds captured all 18 first-place votes from opposing schools to finish with the maximum amount of 162 points in the voting. Navy, last year’s runner-up, finished with 144 points and the remaining two first-place votes as schools could not vote for themselves. The rest of the poll order featured Boston University (122), Colgate (118), Lehigh (104), Holy Cross (72), Lafayette (56), American (53), Army West Point (38) and Bucknell (31).

The two returning major award winners from last season captured the individual preseason honors, with Colgate sophomore midfielder Haley O’Hanlon as the Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Loyola senior defender Maddy Lesher named Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. O’Hanlon was the 2015 Patriot League Rookie of the Year, while last season Lesher captured her second-consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Women’s Lacrosse Preseason All-Patriot League squad featured a balanced group where four teams had multiple selections, with three players from Loyola and Navy. Junior defender Bailey Mathis and senior goalkeeper Molly Wolf joined Lesher on the list from Loyola, while senior attacker Katie Gallagher, sophomore midfielder Jenna Collins and senior defender Lizzy Rullan made it from Navy. Boston University placed a pair of seniors on the squad with attacker Mallory Collins and midfielder Jill Horka, while Lehigh had junior attacker Allison LaBeau and senior midfielder Kendall Garden make the preseason team. Lafayette junior attacker Kirsten Wilhelmsen made the list, which also featured O’Hanlon in the midfield.

Each of the 12 student-athletes earned All-Patriot League status last season, with Lesher and the four honorees in the midfield each making the first team and the remaining seven student-athletes as second-team selections.

The voting for both the preseason poll and All-Patriot League Team was conducted by women’s lacrosse head coaches and sports information directors, who were not permitted to vote for their own team or student-athletes.

While Loyola is the overwhelming favorite for a third-consecutive Patriot League title, the Greyhounds have a ton of key players to replace from last year’s squad which advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. The top six scorers from last year’s team have all departed, a group that includes Kara Burke, Annie Thomas, Hannah Schmitt, Taryn VanThof, Molly Hulseman and Sydney Thomas and that combined for 242 of the team’s 284 goals. Senior attacker Maddy Blakeman (17 G) is the top returning scorer along with junior midfielder Katrina Geiger (6 G, 4 A). While the scoring punch will come from new sources, the defense is in familiar hands with Lesher, Mathis and Wolf. Lesher started all 22 games last season and finished with 46 ground balls and 25 caused turnovers, while Mathis started 18 contests and Wolf finished with a .517 save percentage and 7.86 goals against average. Both Lesher and Wolf have been named Preseason All-Americans by IL Women entering the 2016 season.

Navy has a roster that is much more intact from last season, though the Mids lost do-it-all attacker Loren Generi, who led the team in goals, assists, draw controls and caused turnovers. The next four scorers all return led by Gallagher (38 G, 23 A) and Morgan Young (30 G, 7 A) as well as twin sisters Jenna (25 G, 10 A) and Julia Collins (27 G, 7 A). Rullan leads the defense along with fellow returning starters Molly Doyle and Meghan Hubley, with the back line playing a key role as the Mids will be breaking in a new goalkeeper as Annie Foky has graduated.

Boston University has made it to the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament in each of its first two seasons, and looks to take the next step behind Horka (29 G, 6 A) and Collins (19 G, 5 A). Fellow senior Ally Adams (11 G, 4 A) joins Horka in the midfield, while Remy Nolan leads the defense. The Terriers also have experience in the goal as junior Caroline Meegan (.409 SV PCT) was a second-team All-Patriot League pick last season. BU does have to make up for the loss of some firepower on offense as a trio of 20-goal scorers from last season have moved on.

Colgate finished tied for second place with Navy in last year’s Patriot League standings at 6-2, and the Raiders look for another successful year behind O’Hanlon, who had 34 goals and 17 assists in her outstanding freshman season. Junior Isabel Kreitler (23 G, 2 A) joins her in the midfield while Emily Peebles (28 G, 6 A), Kallan Murray (20 G, 14 A) and Lauren Gorajek (20 G, 3 A) each goes into her senior season off of a solid junior campaign. Kristen Norden leads the defense, though the Raiders do lose some key pieces as Megan Ark, Jenna Frost and Jennie Berglin have all moved on after first-team All-League seasons.

Lehigh loses leading goal scorer Carli Sukonik off last year’s squad, but the rest of the top five on the list all return in LaBeau (34 G, 14 A), Garden (24 G, 10), Lauren Beausoleil (18 G, 10 A) and Kierstyn Voiro (11 G, 10 A). The Mountain Hawks will have to replace All-Patriot League selections Lauren Willcox and Kelly Scott from the defense, but can rely on a returning starting goalkeeper in junior Taylor Tvedt (.420 SV PCT).

Holy Cross has a new head coach as Amanada Belichick takes over, and the Crusaders will look to make a fifth-straight Patriot League Tournament. Though they lose first-team All-League midfielder Laura Ryan, the Crusaders will look for production from Kaitlin Concilio (25 G, 19 A), Tess MacKay (15 G, 7 A), Kate Martino (16 G, 2 A) and Mary Patalita (12 G, 3 A) as four of the top five scorers return. Jersey Burns is back on the defense after a second-team All-League selection last season, and Katie Boyle (.347 SV PCT) started all 18 games in goal in 2015.

Wilhelmsen (47 G, 5 A) looks to lead the way for Lafayette once again and is the top returning goal-scorer in the Patriot League. The top five scorers are all back for the Leopards, as Amanda Case (32 G, 3 A), Charlotte Rath (22 G, 5 A), Maggie Carver (17 G, 6 A) and Ashley Tedesco (10 G, 16 A) also had double-digit goals a year ago with all five top scorers entering their junior season. Anna Raymond (.310 SV PCT) returns in goal after starting all 17 games as a freshman.

American returns its top scorer from last year as senior Jessica Wojciechowski (35 G, 5 A) leads the way on the attack, while the midfield of seniors Terese Buechli (21 G, 1 A) and Olivia Mangan (14 G, 15 A) as well as junior Madison Hoon (21 G, 4 A) gives the team four of its top five scorers back. Army West Point makes its Division I debut under Head Coach Kristen Waagbo, and the Black Knights will feature a young roster that includes just one senior with 21 freshmen on the squad.

Bucknell welcomes the return of leading scorer Maddy Molinari (28 G, 10 A) as well as midfielder Gretchen Richter (26 G, 4 A, 84 DC), who was a second-team All-League selection as a freshman last season. Elizabeth Duswalt (.367 SV PCT) returns in goal after starting all 17 games last season.

The top two teams in the Patriot League preseason poll will be the first to open the season, and will do so with road tests as Navy goes to Virginia Tech on Feb. 5 before Loyola visits Florida the next day. The rest of the teams start the season over the next two weeks, with the first Patriot League contest set for March 8 when Boston University visits American. League play picks up for all squads beginning on March 19, with the top six teams in the final regular-season standings qualifying for the Patriot League Tournament with the quarterfinals set for May 3 and the semifinals and championship played at the site of the top seed in the field on May 6 and 8.

Patriot League Women’s Lacrosse Preseason Poll
1. Loyola, 162 points (18 first-place votes)
2. Navy, 144 (2)
3. Boston University, 122
4. Colgate, 118
5. Lehigh, 104
6. Holy Cross, 72
7. Lafayette, 56
8. American, 53
9. Army West Point, 38
10. Bucknell, 31

Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Haley O’Hanlon, Colgate (So., M)
Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Maddy Lesher, Loyola (Sr., D)

Women’s Lacrosse Preseason All-Patriot League Team
Attack: Mallory Collins, Boston University (Sr.)
Attack: Katie Gallagher, Navy (Sr.)
Attack: Allison LaBeau, Lehigh (Jr.)
Attack: Kirsten Wilhelmsen, Lafayette (Jr.)
Midfield: Jenna Collins, Navy (So.)
Midfield: Kendall Garden, Lehigh (Sr.)
Midfield: Jill Horka, Boston University (Sr.)
Midfield: Haley O’Hanlon, Colgate (So.)
Defense: Maddy Lesher, Loyola (Sr.)
Defense: Bailey Mathis, Loyola (Jr.)
Defense: Lizzy Rullan, Navy (Sr.)
Goalkeeper: Molly Wolf, Loyola (Sr.)