Feb. 8, 2012
Stanford Lacrosse Outlook
Stanford lacrosse is no longer just the top team on the West Coast; it has grown into a national power, including two-straight NCAA tournament appearances. Now, the challenge for head coach Amy Bokker is continuing to grow the program as it attempts to advance in the tournament and compete for national titles.
The Cardinal enters 2012 ranked No. 6 in the country and once again is favored to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. This is all despite losing its top four scorers, including two All-Americans as well as its starting goalkeeper.
However, the Cardinal has reached a point as a program that is can sustain losses to graduation and reload with new, young talent. The team might not be the same and might even play a different style, but winning results are still the program expectation.
"Each year we approach it as a new team because players graduate each year," said Bokker. "We have new kids coming in and the great thing about Stanford is you find out who steps up, because someone always does."
The Cardinal has a returning group of outstanding role players from past seasons, but now will be counted on to carry the load. This includes twin sisters, Anna Boeri and Emilie Boeri, Catherine Swanson and sophomore goalkeeper Lyndsey Munoz.
Stanford will be tested right away, playing some of lacrosse's traditional powers early in the season. This includes No. 1 and defending NCAA champion Northwestern in the opener and five ranked teams to begin the season.
"We want to put ourselves in a position to compete against these top-5 teams," said Bokker. "That is why we schedule out of conference the way that we do."
The goal is not to just try to make the NCAA tournament by winning the MPSF tournament and then the play-in game that the MPSF champion is guaranteed, but earn a spot as one of the best teams in the country.
"We want don't just want to win the MPSF tournament and be in position to get into the NCAA tournament," said Bokker. "I want to be a team that is an at-large tournament team and be thinking that way as one of the top-10 teams in the country."
Part of the challenge for Stanford is having to play the traditional powers of women's lacrosse during the beginning of the season, since the conference season comes at the end of the year. The MPSF is getting better (and deeper with this year's addition San Diego State), but the reality is it is still likely a one-bid league. This means Stanford will play its toughest competition right out of the gate, which Bokker does not necessarily see as a bad thing.
"I think it will give us a good check of where we are," said Bokker. "The truth of the matter is that we want to be getting better at the end of the season. I think I have already seen that from the fall to now, but I want to continue to see that as the year goes on."
Despite losing its top four scorers from last season, the Cardinal return three very capable pieces, led by sisters Anna and Emilie Boeri. Emilie is Stanford's top returning goal scorer having found the back of the net 27 times last season. Anna was Stanford's leading distributor a year ago, tying for the team lead with 19 assists. In addition, Rachel Ozer is back after a strong freshman season and will be more of a focal point in the offense this year. Fighting it out for the final starting spot in the attack will be returner Annie Anton and freshmen Emily Newstrom and Kyle Fraser. Each that is battling for the final position brings different strengths to the table, making it likely that all three will see minutes.
"We have a lot of top returners on the attack with the Boeri sisters," said Bokker." Moving Emilie to attack last year was a really positive move up until she got hurt. Rachel Ozer had a phenomenal fall. She has really stepped up and become a prolific goal scorer for us."
The midfield also returns some talent, although the depth of previous season will need to happen over time. Carolyn Bradley and Catherine Swanson are the veterans of the midfield and will be relied upon for leadership and major minutes this season. Also, returning MPSF Newcomer of the Year Anna Kim, should fill-in as the third starter. Beyond that, Stanford has several that will need to step up if Bokker is able to run lines of midfielders that she has in the past. Maria Fortino is the main returner that can fill this role as well as freshmen Rachel Hinds, Hannah Farr and Meredith Kalinowski. Hinds is probably the fastest player on the team, while Farr is a top athlete, already having won an NCAA title with the Stanford soccer team in the fall. Kalinowski might be the best goal-scorer of the freshman bunch in the midfield.
The other key role for the midfielders will be in the draw circle where the returners have been working hard to tighten up that part of the game. A year ago, Leslie Foard set Stanford's all-time record with 52 draw controls and that production will need to be replaced. Swanson was second last year with 34 draw controls and will be the key this year, but Bradley and Kim will also need to play big roles.
"We lost a lot of power in the midfield, but because of the way we run our lines," said Bokker. "The returning players all have experience because they have played. They might not have been the go to players, but they have experience against the top teams. I think that Catherine Swanson has found a lot more scoring opportunities this year because she is just getting the ball more."
The defense returns a pair of starters in Elizabeth Adam and Nina Swanson. Those two will provide stability as the rest of the defense takes shape. Last year, the Cardinal allowed 10 goals a game, but might need to bring that number down if the offense is not as prolific as a year ago. The other key returner is Megan Lerner who is back for her second season and is filling a role as a physical defender. The fourth spot could be one of several freshmen, including Rachel Kalick, Caroline Scanlon, Chinna O'Suji and Kyra Vargas.
"We feel like we have some good stability down there with Liz (Adam) and Nina," said Bokker. "Megan Lerner has stepped up and filled a role for us."
There is no question to who will see time in goal as Lyndsey Munoz will take over full time. Munoz saw some action last year, including coming on in some big moments. None was bigger than the MPSF Championship Game where Munoz came on after the Cardinal fell behind 7-0. Munoz managed to stop the early onslaught by Oregon and allow the Stanford offense to bring the Cardinal all the way back for a 12-10 victory. After the match, Munoz was named the tournament MVP and provided an early indication to the big things expected throughout her career.
"Lyndsey came up big in some big moments last year, so despite her technically being a rookie in the cage, she has some big-game experience," said Bokker. "I think that is going to be one of our most exciting positions this year."