Feb. 14, 2003
While the Cardinal has won the past five consecutive conference championships and compiled an impressive 46-4 record in league play during this time, for third-year head coach Michele Uhlfelder, making a mark on the national landscape is the next step in building the Stanford lacrosse program.
And 2003 may be the year Stanford takes that step.
"We took a big step last year toward our goal," said Uhlfelder, who is 24-12 overall and a perfect 18-0 combined in the Western Women's and Mountain Pacific Lacrosse Leagues in her two seasons at Stanford. "In 2002 we steadily improved over the course of a schedule that was significantly tougher, and with a team who was significantly younger." In 2001, the Cardinal was the first team in the west to break into the top-20. "That was very exciting and it was a good indicator of what we're capable of," said Uhlfelder, "but we were not able to sustain it throughout the year as we got deeper into our schedule against some of the top national programs."
However in 2003, Uhlfelder may have the ingredients to compete against those very same national opponents. The Cardinal returns 15 letter-winners from last year's team that went 11-7 overall and 10-0 in the Mountain Pacific Lacrosse League (MPLL.)
"In terms of moving the program for-ward, last year's team made great strides," said Uhlfelder. "I see this year as taking another big step. What is significant is that we've had a lot of young players play a lot of important minutes, and this year will continue that theme." With that game experience and national exposure against the top pro-grams, the 2003 team is prepared to continue to build the program.
"I look for our team to be more mature and seasoned," she said. "Although we are still very young, we're much further along this year than we were at the same point last year. We are excited about what this team has the potential to accomplish, given the opportunities that our schedule affords us. Each team will be instrumental in helping reach our goals, which go beyond rankings and scores. We're looking to accomplish a lot that the scoreboard doesn't measure, and we're excited for the challenge," said Uhlfelder.
The Next Step The Cardinal returns experienced players at every position, including its top four scorers off last year's team, a solid defensive core, an experienced goalkeeper, a talented group of young attackers and midfielders. "The defensive unit is the most experienced part of our team," says Uhlfelder. "Most of those players have played every have a big role in helping us get to where fast breaks account for three-quarters of our scoring," she said. At the attack position, Uhlfelder says the team goals are to improve shooting percentage and the ability to get in positions to score.
"The chemistry on offense has improved," she said, "and we need it to improve even more to run our motions. We will look to be more dynamic in using our stickwork in tight, and more aggressive in our moves." Stanford has three quality goalkeepers, including last year's starter, who will compete for the starting assignment in 2003. "I expect all three goalies to play and challenge each other," Uhlfelder said. "The opportunity is there and they are all competitive. Each of them possesses unique skills, but they all will be looked at to be defensive leaders and create things outside of the crease."
Returning Stars The Cardinal returns 15 letter-winners off last year's team, including eight who played in all 18 games a year ago. Leading the charge are 2003 co-captains Kim Cahill and Larissa Conte. Cahill, a 5-6 senior from Stockton, Calif. has not played the past two years due to knee injuries, but her presence on the 2003 club provides leadership and a quality player on the attack. "Kim has seen a lot of lacrosse...she is coming into her own and settling into the game. We look forward to her finding her comfort zone on the field so that she can be the impact that we think she is," said Uhlfelder.
Conte is one of the team's defensive anchors. A junior from Bethesda, Maryland, she has played in all 36 games the past two years, starting 35, and proven to be one of the team's best on defensive organizers. "Larissa is very passionate about this team, and has great leadership qualities. Like our other defenders, she has been put in the position to mark some of the country's best attackers-this experience will be invaluable," said Uhlfelder.
Sophomore Kelsey Twist turned in an outstanding freshman season a year ago and is expected to be one of the team's leaders at the midfield position. She started all 18 games last season and led the team in goals (36), points (48), free-positions (17) and draw controls (41) - all numbers that rank among the best single seasons in school history. Junior Abbi Hills is another midfielder who has started all 36 games the past two seasons and is among the school's all-time leaders in virtually every category. She has scored 53 goals and accounted for 67 points in 2001 and '02. She is among the school's top-10 all-time in goals scored, free-positions, shots, draw controls, assists, caused turnovers and games played.
The attack will be led by the Calzonetti twins - Julia and Claire - and junior Jess Scott. Julia Calzonetti started all 18 games as a freshman a year ago, led the team with 75 shots and was second in total points (36) and third in goals scored (28). Her twin sister, Claire, was the team leader with 13 assists and fourth with 34 points, which included 21 goals. Scott, a leader during the fall season, also started all 18 in 2002, finishing with 17 goals, six assists and 23 points.
Sophomores Nina Pantano and Anthea Tjuanakis, along with Conte and fellow junior Katie Grube, will form the nucleus of Stanford's defensive unit. Pantano, from Wayne, Penn., started every game last year as a freshman. She was second on the club with 29 goals, third with 35 points and second with 73 shots on goal. Tjuanakis also started all 18 games in '02 and enters the 2003 season as one of the team's toughest defenders. Grube will transition from studying abroad this fall to marking some of the country's best attackers this season.
New Coaches/New Players Stanford Lacrosse's new look for 2003 is due in part to the addition of a new assistant coach and eight freshmen.
The program made history this September by adding a third World Cup player to it's coaching staff as Jo Connolly joined head coach Michele Uhlfelder and assistant coach Quinn Carney. No other collegiate program can boast three former World Cup players on its staff. Uhlfelder, Connelly, and Carney canvassed the field and helped the U.S. team bring home the gold medal in the 2001 World Cup in England from their attack, defense, and midfield positions, respectively. In the title game, Carney led all scorers with 3 goals, Uhlfelder notched 2 goals, and Connelly gained possession of key draws and ground balls while marking Australia's best attackers. "There's nothing that says by virtue of being a great player, that you're a great coach or teacher," said Uhlfelder. "But in this case, I think we all are. We are different in our style, different in our approach and different in our experience, but we will be really effective in helping teach our players from a player's mentality," she said.
One of the overall goals for the experienced staff is to teach young players how to play beyond their experience level. Uhlfelder comments, "Young players in this country should be making more of an impact, and older players should be reaching new levels of athleticism. In a nutshell, I think older players should be rewriting the record books, while young players should be developing more rapidly in the collegiate game." In a program comprised of three quarters freshman and sophomores, the Cardinal coaching staff will have tremendous opportunity to help the Card youth reach new levels of leadership, impact, and athleticism.
Along with the change in staff, the team also welcomes eight new players, poised to transition to the college game. Leading the freshman class is Megan Burker from Byrn Mawr School in Baltimore. Burker was a prep All-America last year and figures to play a prominent role in the Cardinal's attack this season. Burker is joined by fellow prep All-America GK Kate Horowitz (Lakeland HS/Yorktown Heights, NY), and high school standouts D Kinsey Morrison (Roland Park HS/Baltimore, MD), MF Cassie Harvey (Roland Park HS/Baltimore, MD), D Nyerr Parham (Bryn Mawr School/Owings Mills, MD), A Sarah Bach (Seton Keough HS/Baltimore, MD), and D Thea Lorentzen (Greenwich HS/Greenwich, CT). Uhlfelder says, "This freshman class brings a lot of athleticism, talent, and depth as a whole. They are extremely excited about taking their games to the next level, and about the opportunity to impact this program. We will look to Ny, Kinsey, and Thea to step into big defensive roles as well as Kate in goal...Megan and Sarah will provide offensive spark, and Cassie will be a fresh flash in the midfield.
Schedule The Cardinal has put together a 16-game regular season schedule that includes seven teams that competed in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Building the schedule with national-caliber opponents has been Uhlfelder's goal since her arrival on The Farm. "We've been successful in scheduling some of the top teams in the country," she said.
"Our first year, we were trying to lay a foundation and get on the map. Now, our goal is to make an impact on the national level. This schedule gives us the opportunities we need to get to the NCAA Tournament." Stanford's 2003 schedule includes NCAA Tournament teams: Ohio State, Georgetown, Duke, Maryland-Baltimore County, Notre Dame, Loyola and Cornell.
In addition, Stanford will enter as the undefeated defending Mountain Pacific League Champion. "I feel good about the competition that our league poses, because everyone is always gunning for us, and it teaches our players to approach every game the same way. It helps us prepare for a championship format as well as learn how to handle the pressure of being the top dog," said Uhlfelder. While the Mountain Pacific League currently does not have an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the league's power rating ranks ahead of several conferences that currently have bids.
Stanford will host three tournaments that highlight the schedule in 2003. On March 9th, Stanford will play Georgetown in the 2nd Annual East/West Challenge, sponsored by deBeer. The game will showcase some of the best lacrosse that comes to town. It is promoted as a "fans in the stands" game, at which attendance records stand to be broken and the masses will have the opportunity to see the speed and athleticism for which lacrosse is known . On April 4-6 The Cardinal will run the Western States Tournament for the second consecutive year, where upwards of 50 high school and collegiate club teams will compete for the Western States title. Last year's title sponsor was Sports Her Way out of Baltimore. Stanford will conclude the regular season by hosting the Mountain Pacific Lacrosse League championships on May 3-4 in Maloney Stadium. "I don't think many people are aware of the number of lacrosse programs on this coast," said Uhlfelder. "For us, playing host to all these programs and featured games supports our mission to help market the game and educate people about lacrosse. We hope teams and fans have a great experience on our campus, especially with a fast paced, high scoring, athletic game like lacrosse."