Feb. 9, 2005
Under the guidance of head coach Michele Uhlfelder, the Stanford women's lacrosse program has passed numerous milestones in the process of growing into the top program on the west coast, and emerging as a major player on the national lacrosse scene. In 2002, Stanford women's lacrosse became the first team from the west to be ranked in the national top-20, with its best finish at No. 15, and again in 2004 garnering a preseason No. 14 ranking, while playing the most demanding schedules in the program's emerging history. Entering its eighth season as a varsity team, Uhlfelder and the Cardinal would like nothing more than to blaze another trail for lacrosse teams in the west, and receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in championship history.
With Uhlfelder at the helm, Stanford has posted a 47-25 (.653) record and has developed into a team that can compete with any of the traditional powers in collegiate lacrosse. The 2004 season was further proof of the program's development, as the Cardinal competed against seven teams that were selected to the 16-team NCAA Tournament field, and posted a 9-9 overall mark.
"Last year was a really important year for our program in order to keep improving," said Uhlfelder. "I'm proud of last year's team because of the level of play that we attained. A lot of the things that we were doing well didn't show up on the scoreboard. Overall, we lost three one-goal games, and those contests were against very good teams. Those games are emotionally taxing. I give our team a ton of credit for coming back game after game, and putting tough losses and disappointment behind them. "
After rolling through the first season of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play with four wins in as many games, Stanford tasted its first conference defeat in four seasons in the league championship game against California. With the loss, recapturing the MPSF title has become a top priority for the 2005 Cardinal squad.
"We had three years of being undefeated in our league, which is tough to do," stated Uhlfelder. "We have a big target on our backs game after game, and I think that type of competition is great for the conference. Ultimately having the toughest national schedule in our conference and putting ourselves on the line constantly makes us better. It's a great challenge to be fresh, focused, and mentally tough when everyone is gunning for you."
The Stanford women's lacrosse program enters the 2005 season with the ultimate goal of capturing an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. "I have always approached Stanford's tournament goals from the perspective of asking `why not'? Why can't a team on the west coast be one of the best teams in the country? `Have the courage to see what never was, and ask why not.' That's what building the program has been about," said Uhlfelder. "It's about recruiting and it's about scheduling. It's been about breaking down stereotypes and helping people realize what a great opportunity Stanford provides."
Stanford returns 13 players from the 2004 team, all providing a wealth of experience and a desire to raise the bar for Cardinal Lacrosse. Senior midfielders Kelsey Twist and Nina Pantano will be expected to orchestrate the attack from the midfield, while juniors Sarah Bach and Megan Burker will carry the scoring load in the attack. Coach Uhlfelder's squad is most experienced in the midfield, welcoming back four players that saw significant action last season, while the defense is comprised of a young and skilled group.
Junior captain Megan Burker will pace the attack for the Cardinal once again in 2005. As a sophomore, Burker ranked second on the team with 30 goals, and led the squad with 41 points. The Baltimore, MD native was named to the All-Conference team for the second straight season, and became the first Cardinal lacrosse player to try out for the United States National Team last summer. Burker enters the season ranked in the top-10 on the Cardinal career list in both goals and points after just two seasons on The Farm.
Junior Sarah Bach and sophomore Michelle DeChant join Burker in the Cardinal attack, and will be relied upon for increased firepower up front. Bach continued to emerge as a reliable goal scorer last season, scoring 17 goals and assisting on 11 scores. Bach started all 18 contests, and ranked fourth on the team with 28 points. DeChant received valuable experience as a freshman, seeing action in 15 games and making seven starts. The Annapolis, MD native scored 10 goals and registered 12 points in her rookie campaign.
"Megan Burker and Sarah Bach are two very seasoned attackers," stated Uhlfelder. "Their job is to put the ball in the net and control the pace of our offense. Sarah has also earned the reputation of being very tough in the hunt for possession of ground balls. But when it comes down to our settled offense, we strive for a well-balanced scoring attack. Michelle DeChant is a threat this year after spending the fall improving her moves and ability to finish."
The challenge for the Stanford attack in the upcoming season will be replacing one of the program's most prolific scorers, as the team lost Abbi Hills to graduation following the 2004 season. Hills, who paced the team with 32 goals a year ago, finished her career on the Farm ranked second on the Cardinal career goals chart with 114 goals. Hills is beginning her first season as an assistant coach at Cornell, who Stanford plays on March 19th.
The Cardinal midfield should be one of the team's main strengths as seniors Nina Pantano and Kelsey Twist make up the heart of an experienced unit, and will serve as captains of the 2005 squad along with Burker. Both Pantano and Twist have started all 54 games that they've appeared in during their three seasons on The Farm, and the names of both players litter the Cardinal lacrosse record book in nearly every category. The duo will be expected to be most visible in the team's defensive presence, as well as score goals and start fast breaks.
Twist scored 20 goals last season, and paced the team with 12 assists. The Baltimore, MD native also led the team with 30 draw controls, and ranked second on the squad with 35 ground balls. Twist is the program's all-time leader with 117 career draw controls.
"Kelsey and Nina have been playing like seniors, and we'll look to those two to set the example," said Uhlfelder. "They are two of our biggest goal producers, and we need them to have strong seasons in the midfield. They both worked hard in the weight room over the summer, and they continue to grow as they take on leadership roles on the team."
The duo is joined in the Cardinal midfield by an experienced group of players. Junior Nyerr Parham saw action in 17 games last season, and tallied her first collegiate goal against Northwestern. The versatile Parham also registered a pair of assists, and is capable of playing in the Cardinal defense. Sophomores Jessica Verrilli and Liz Piselli gained a considerable amount of experience as freshmen last season, and will be expected to step into expanded roles during the upcoming campaign. Piselli saw action in all 18 games and demonstrated her goal-scoring ability, scoring seven goals in her rookie year. Verrilli, who also played valuable minutes last season, played in 17 contests and is expected to emerge as a key contributor in 2005.
"We would like to use our speed to be more dangerous. One of our goals for this season is to increase the goal production in the midfield off of the fast break and in man-up situations," said Uhlfelder. "We want our middies to be able to control the pace of the game, limit our turnovers, and increase our possession of ground balls and draw controls. Overall, we expect them to increase our efficiency and productivity."
The Cardinal defense returns an experienced player in junior Thea Lorentzen to go along with a youthful group that should step into several key roles this season. Lorentzen saw action in 13 games and registered seven caused turnovers last year. Junior Kinsey Morrison has played sparingly due to injuries in her two seasons on The Farm, but will be expected to provide the Cardinal defense with an additional spark in the upcoming campaign. With sophomore Bryanne Gilkinson redshirting the upcoming season, coach Uhlfelder will have to look to that talented group of newcomers to fill the voids left by the graduation of former Cardinal standouts Katie Grube and Tiffany Chao.
"Our returnees on defense have worked extremely hard on ball possession and are looking to produce in categories like ground balls and caused turnovers this year," stated Uhlfelder. "Some of our defenders played nearly every minute of every game last season, so we need them to be leaders for us and to really step up their presence this season. "
The Cardinal lost veteran goalkeeper Christina Saikus to graduation, but a pair of returnees are poised to build on Saikus' legacy. Junior Kate Horowitz has seen limited action in the cage during her first two seasons at Stanford. The most experienced of the three Cardinal goalkeepers, Horowitz appeared in eight games and registered an 8.17 goals against average in 2004. Sophomore Carly Posner appeared in one contest, making a pair of saves against UC Davis in the MPSF semifinal game last year. Freshman Laura Shane begins her first year on The Farm, and could see significant time in cage during her rookie campaign.
"Christina Saikus set a great example, and I think that the current goalkeepers understand the tradition that has been established here," said Uhlfelder. "Our goalkeepers have big shoes to fill, but each one has different strengths that they bring to the table. We're going to try to capitalize on those strengths, and we're fortunate to have three outstanding goalkeepers on our squad this season."
Cardinal lacrosse welcomes 12 new faces to the program this season, infusing the team with new blood and presenting coach Uhlfelder with increased options on the field. Included in the group are two sophomores beginning their first seasons on The Farm, and nine incoming freshmen. The new group of players features seven midfielders, three defenders, and a goalkeeper.
"The newcomers are going to be able to provide a spark and depth. They have a lot of energy and they are competitors," stated Uhlfelder. "Once they have gotten a taste of a collegiate schedule and are given game roles, they will start to individually pull away from the pack and shine. The learning curve is very steep, but we expect them to adjust and contribute quickly."
Four attackers join the Cardinal squad for 2005, and should provide depth in the Cardinal offense. Daphne Patterson, a native of New York, NY, joins the team after earning All-America honors in Delaware, and will compete for playing time in the preseason. Sisters Alicia and Amanda Soto, both Academic All-Americans in high school, come to Stanford from the lacrosse hotbed of Maryland, while Rebecca Milo, a transfer from Santa Clara, will look to use her maturity to make the transition to varsity status and help provide depth to the attack.
Katharine Fox, Bri Ned, and sophomore Rachel Dyke join the Cardinal defense and will be called upon to contribute immediately. Fox and Ned bring a wealth of experience from highly competitive club teams in Maryland, and all three players earned Academic All-American honors during their high school careers.
Senior Nicole Barnhart, an All-American Goalkeeper and four-year letterwinner on the Stanford women's soccer team, will play her first year of varsity lacrosse on The Farm this season. Barnhart is no stranger to the sport, earning All-America honors at the high school level and serving as a manager for the Cardinal squad for the last two seasons. She will be expected to contribute in the Cardinal defense this year.
Coach Uhlfelder brings three new midfielders into the fold this year, and each will have to fit into a variety of roles in the lineup. Megan McClain, an All-American from Dallas, TX is expected to bolster the midfield, while Anna Brown and Ariana Parasco come to The Farm after dominant high school careers.
Rounding out the incoming group is Laura Shane, a goalkeeper from Baltimore, MD. A first team All-Baltimore City and County goalkeeper with an 80 percent save rate in high school, Shane provides the Cardinal with increased athleticism in the cage and is adept at coming out of the crease to make plays.
"We need the young players to come in and assume some big roles on the team," stated Uhlfelder. "There are positions to fill and this class is capable of stepping up."
Stanford has once against assembled an extremely competitive schedule, facing six teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season and navigating one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. The Cardinal will take to the road for non-conference clashes against preseason No. 4 Duke (March 26 at Nashville), No. 4 Vanderbilt (March 28), No. 3 Northwestern (April 8), No. 12 Notre Dame (April 10), No. 10 Loyola (April 23), and Ohio State (April 30). Coach Uhlfelder's team will also host a number of perennial powers on the national lacrosse scene, including Connecticut (March 4), No. 9 Georgetown (March 6), Colgate (March 18), Cornell (March 19), and No. 18 Yale (April 15).
In the second season of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play, the Cardinal's conference slate includes road matches with Oregon (February 12), Saint Mary's (February 18), and UC Davis (February 20). Stanford will play home MPSF games against California (April 1) and Denver (April 17).
The 2005 campaign marks Oregon's first season of participation in NCAA lacrosse and with the move of UC Davis from Division II to Division I in motion, the MPSF hopes to have the six teams necessary for the NCAA to consider the league for an automatic qualifier to the championship tournament.
Uhlfelder leads a team determined to make it to NCAA Championship competition in 2005. The coaching staff hopes that the tough schedule facing the Cardinal in 2005 will help Stanford lacrosse continue its growth into a national power.
Under Uhlfelder's guidance, Stanford University has been a tremendous ambassador for the sport of women's lacrosse. The Cardinal will host No. 9 Georgetown in the fourth annual deBeer East/West Challenge on March 6, and continue to foster the growth of lacrosse on the West Coast through youth tournaments and events held on the Stanford campus.
"Supporting the growth of lacrosse here is fun and exciting for our players and the program as a whole," said Uhlfelder. "On the field we're role models, and off the field we are teachers. On the field they play with a pride and an awareness of this. Off the field they volunteer to teach the game in all kinds of settings, and as they teach they learn the game two-fold. They work hard to be visible and they are proud to be pioneers."