Feb. 19, 1997

1997 Season Preview

Virginia has had a long history of excellence, and even when a new chapter is started, the Cavaliers have plenty to be proud of. The winningest tournament team in the 1990's, the Cavaliers have reached the final four five of the last six years. The 1996 squad saw a new head coach pick up from her own playing experiences and lead the team back to the final four, where Virginia had resided for quite some time. Julie Myers coached her team to a runner-up finish in the national tournament in her first year at the helm of the squad and knows there is only one more place they can go. With a squad that returns eleven letter winners and eight of the twelve starters from last year's title game, Virginia looks to take the next step in 1997.

The Cavaliers lost four letterwinners from last year's squad, three from the defensive half of the field, including two-time National Goalie of the Year Michelle Cusimano. Looking to follow Cusimano will be Heather Castle, a third-year who notched valuable playing time last year. She will be pushed by first-year 'keeper Francis Segarra. According to Myers, "The goalkeeper position is a very exciting one, and at the same time, it is a very critical one. We expect a lot of our goalkeeper, both in and out of the crease. Virginia is fortunate to have a great goalkeeping coach in Heather Dow. I expect our goalie to be a major contributor to the team."

Playing in front of the cage will be a line of seasoned defenders, all of whom have seen experience in the title game. Fourth-year Carolyn Papa will anchor the back line of the Cavalier defense that recorded a shutout and kept 15 of the 18 opponents under at ten goals or less. The defensive line has a powerful mixture of speed and agressiveness that is now accompanied with experience. Myers says, "Carolyn should step up and be the leader of a practiced crew. Even those with high school experience have had a chance to play in big games, and it will be exciting to watch them blend together. " Those that figure to play into the mix include fourth-year Julie Jakum and two freshmen, including two-time high school All-American Stephy Samaras and Alissa DeCarlo. Looking to take charge of the midfield defense will be third-years Kara Ariza and Peggy Boutilier, both of whom have had national team experience, and second-year Melissa Hayes, all of whom were on the top-ranked field hockey team in the fall. This top-level experience which will help add game-ready toughness to the squad. Ariza was named to the All-American second-team in 1996 and was Virginia's fourth-highest scorer. The three started all 18 games for the Cavaliers and scored 32 goals among them. They will add a wealth of knowledge to the field and look to control the midfield for Virginia. Third-year Dixie Hurst and second-year Samm Taylor are two quick players who will add to the midfield speed and experience. Hurst, Taylor and first-year red-shirt Ashley Widger will add depth to the midfield.

The Cavaliers return their top four scorers from last year and 83% of all points from 1996, including third-year Beth Potter, who led the team in points in 1996. Potter registered 27 goals and 26 assists on the year, the third-highest number of assists in a season in Virginia history. She is a very versatile player who brings a high level of game intelligence as well as game skills to the field. Joining Potter will be fourth-year Heather Patton, who scored the game-winner against Princeton in 1996. Patton is a dangerous player who scored 17 goals and added 7 assists, including five goals in the post-season. Both Patton and Potter started in each of the games they played last year. Adding depth to the offensive midfield will be second-year Mia Mooney, who brings international experience to the squad following her stint with the Under-19 team. Mooney scored 11 goals last year, including two in the tournament. Jessica Hull, who scored six goals last year and notched two assists, will also assist in the Cavalier cause. Looking to add to the squad are third-year Joanna Khouri and newcomers Amy Fromal, who played in high school with Potter, and Jamie Haas, also a Pennsylvanian. Both Fromal and Haas are two-time All-Americans in high school who were named to the All-Central team three years in a row. "The midfield is as fast as it has ever been," adds Myers. "We will look for them to take some chances to create fast break opportunities."

Looking to head up the offense for the Cavaliers will most likely be All-American Kate Evans. Evans, who notched 41 goals in the 96 campaign, moved into the top ten single-season scoring leaders with her efforts. Evans, a third-team All-American from last year, was one of the tri-captains last year and is known as one of the hardest shots in the game. She scored six goals in the post season and will be competing this year as a graduate student. Also looking to contribute to the Cavaliers' efforts are third-year red-shirt Jen Langton, third-year Clair Parrish, and second-year Mary Sauer. Parrish received the Yates award last year for her outstanding contributions to the team. Hoping to contribute at home will be local newcomers Sarah Gercke, who was named to the All-Central team last year, and fellow All-Central teammate Lindsay Talbott. Pennsylvanian Kelly Allenbach, an All-American high-school teammate of Patton's, will also add to the depth of the attack. "I am really excited about our attack," cites Myers. "They have a lot of experience and have a great knowledge not only of the game but also how each other plays. They work well together and know how to create scoring opportunities."

Virginia's schedule is once again among the strongest in the country, and it includes all five of the schools that accompanied Virginia to the tournament in 1996. According to Myers, "The schedule is a great part of the program. We will have the chance to be tested many times throughout the season. We will know where we stand each week of the season." Also in the schedule is the inaugural ACC tournament, which pits Virginia against newcomers Duke and North Carolina as well as defending national champion Maryland. The Cavaliers will face all nine of the schools that were in the top ten in the Brine Poll at the end of the season along with Virginia. Two of the schools that the Cavaliers will face, Penn State and North Carolina, are coached by Virginia alumnae, attesting to the ongoing legacy that Virginia had added to the world of women's lacrosse. Myers and the rest of the Cavaliers hope that this season will once again prove that Virginia has plenty to be proud of.