Stanford, Calif. -
Under the guidance of head coach Michele Uhlfelder, the Stanford women's lacrosse program has passed numerous milestones in the process of becoming the top program on the west coast, and emerging as a major player on the national lacrosse scene. Last season culminated in a 13-5 record, as the 2005 Cardinal held its top-20 ranking, finishing No. 17 nationally. The team finished the season with an impressive 7-0 sprint to the finish, and won eight of its last nine games on its way to regaining the Mountain Pacific title. The Cardinal hoped this finish would turn the heads of the NCAA Tournament committee for a coveted bid.
Uhlfelder said, "I was extremely proud of how we ended last season 7-0. We did miss some early opportunities to beat the 1-10 ranked teams necessary to put us in bid range, but we matured from a young team to a seasoned team. We emerged from two young units at each end of the field, to a tournament-ready team. It would have been great to see what we could have done in the tournament, when our defense was posting big stops, and our offense was resilient enough to outscore prolific opponents."
In pursuit of a NCAA bid, the program has earned the distinction of becoming the first team in the west to be ranked in the national top 20. On two occasions, Stanford earned this honor. First, in 2001, when a team of virtual unknowns cracked the top 20, and again in 2003 when that squad finished with the program's best finish at No. 15. The following year brought the 2004 Cardinal a preseason No. 14 ranking, while playing the most demanding schedule in the program's emerging history.
With Uhlfelder at the helm, Stanford has posted a 60-30 (.667) record with over half of the Cardinal opponents being NCAA Tournament teams. The 2005 season was further proof of the program's national development, as the team posted a winning percentage of 72%, and beat 5 opponents for the first time in the history of the series.
After rolling through the second undefeated season of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) play, Stanford regained its conference title defeating the University of California in 2005. The Cardinal has posted only one loss in MPSF league play during Coach Uhlfelder's time at Stanford.
"We lost one conference game in my five years--the 2004 conference finals," said Uhlfelder. "Wearing that target year after year helps us stay sharp, focused, and mentally tough. Each year the league race heats up more and more, and it is an intense culmination to the year."
This year's squad will have the opportunity to step up, on the heels of graduating two standout players from the 2005 team--Kelsey Twist and Nina Pantano. Twist and Pantano combined to become the most prolific midfielders in Cardinal Lacrosse history. They were both named to the 2005 North/South Senior All-Star Game Team, while both received All-MPSF League honors. Pantano earned All-MPSF League honors in 2004 as well, and was named MVP of the 2005 MPSF Tournament. In 2005 Twist was tabbed a MPSF Player of the Week, and received Honorable Mention Player of the Week honors by Inside Lacrosse.
Replacing only two seniors promises to give Stanford's 22 returnees the chance to pick up from where they left off. This is a record number of veterans returning for the Cardinal, over half of whom started or saw significant action in last year's campaign. Stanford also returns senior, Megan Burker, who provides solid continuity in the Cardinal leadership, serving her second year as captain. Sarah Bach and Kinsey Morrison join her in the 2006 trio of co-captains.
The veterans will strive for a fresh look, giving traditional line attackers and defenders the opportunity to run the midfield. Megan Burker, Megan McClain, Liz Piselli, Bri Ned, and Anna Brown have looked strong in the midfield. Seasoned defenders Thea Lorentzen, Kinsey Morrison, and Nyerr Parham have also trained as midfield defenders, while attackers Sarah Bach, and Daphne Patterson have trained as midfield attackers.
"We are excited that our team has come back fitter and stronger. The upperclassmen have come back stronger leaders, too. Overall, we have a very competitive and well- tested group, joined by a freshman class that makes us deeper and stronger. I like that our team is coming off of a summer that helped many of them grow as players. In their off time, many coached club teams and camps, tried out for the U.S. Developmental Team, and played in the US Lacrosse National Tournament. They have grown as competitors and playmakers," said Uhlfelder.
Notable among the returnees are Megan Burker and Laura Shane, both receiving national honors in 2005. In her junior year, Burker was selected to the 2005 U.S. Developmental Team as a midfield attacker. She becomes the first Stanford lacrosse player to be chosen to a U.S. Team. Goalkeeper Laura Shane became the first Stanford player to be chosen to the All-South Region team. After recording the 5th highest save percentage in the country, as a freshman, Shane was one of 3 goalkeepers chosen from the South--arguably the nations most competitive region.
Senior captains Sarah Bach and Meg Burker will pace the attack for the Cardinal once again in 2006. As a junior, Bach led the team with 40 goals in 18 starts, finishing with a team high 49 points. The Baltimore, MD native was named MPSF Player of the Week twice during the 2005 season. Bach enters the season ranked in the top-10 on the Cardinal single season list in goals, after three seasons on The Farm. Burker continued to emerge as a reliable goal scorer last season, scoring 30 goals and assisting on 19 scores to tie Bach with a team high 49 points. Burker ranks 6th in the career goal record book with 98 goals, 2nd in the career assist record book with 47 assists, and 6th in the career ground ball record book with 125.
Annapolis, MD native, Michelle DeChant, is the next most veteran attacker, starting 25 games in her career and posting 20 career goals. She is expected to have an impactful junior year. Sophomore Daphne Patterson joins Bach, Burker, and DeChant in the Cardinal attack, and will be relied upon for increased firepower up front. Patterson received valuable experience as a freshman, seeing action in 18 games. The New York City native scored 21 goals in her rookie campaign. She emerged as a consistent offensive threat and a big target for teammates.
Rebecca Milo, who transferred to Stanford in 2004, brings more depth to the Cardinal attack and is expected to contribute on a larger scale this year.
"Megan Burker and Sarah Bach work very well together and have developed a great sense of timing. They are playmakers, and both shoot well from the 8m-penalty line when fouled. Daphne is a competitor and a smart player. She can handle the ball in-tight, and finish shots. Over the course of a game her timing gets better and better. She can work with anyone on the field. These four returning attackers give us a great place to start," stated Uhlfelder.
The Cardinal midfield will take on a different look this year, as it replaces 4-year starters Twist and Pantano. Making up the heart of the midfield will be experienced junior Liz Piselli. Stepping up to join her are sophomores Megan McClain, Anna Brown, and Bri Ned. This core group, along with Meg Burker and new freshman talent, promises to bring more speed and a fast break threat to the Cardinal.
Last season Piselli made a statistical impact, scoring 20 goals, and 7 assists. The Rockville Centre, NY native started 17 games as the top scoring midfielder. Piselli also had 30 draw controls, and led the team with 35 ground balls.
From her attacking position last year, McClain saw key action in all 18 contests and scored 11 goals and 8 assists as a freshman. On the defensive side of the ball Bri Ned made an immediate impact with 27 ground balls, 4 draw controls, and 10 caused turnovers.
"One of our midfielders' main roles will be to handle the ball against all types of presses and rides, and set up our offensive transition. Between the 30's they are key ball handlers," Uhlfelder said.
Other midfield assignments will be given to players with defensive experience, such as seniors Nyerr Parham and Thea Lorentzen, and Junior Jessica Verrilli. Also looking to expand her role is sophomore Ariana Parasco, who saw action in all 18 games and demonstrated her goal-scoring ability, tallying 4 goals.
"Our goal is to use our speed more dangerously--create man up advantages and get fast break shots off," said Uhlfelder. "Our middies should be the ones getting the ball into our offensive end no matter what the defense throws at us. They should also be our leaders in the hustle categories--ground balls and draws."
The Cardinal defense looks to be the most seasoned unit, returning their starting goalkeeper and three seniors: Thea Lorentzen, Kinsey Morrison, and Nyerr Parham. They will set the tone for youthful defenders looking to step up, such as Rachel Dyke, Ariana Parasco, and several freshmen.
Lorentzen started all 18 games and was selected to the All-MPSF team. She registered 21 caused turnovers last year, proving tough in the Cardinal's last seven game win streak. She dug out 29 ground balls in an effort to limit the opponents' opportunities to score. Senior Kinsey Morrison came off of injuries to play all 18 games and will be expected to provide the Cardinal defense with maturity and an additional spark in the upcoming campaign. Parham also saw action in all 18 games and improved to the #3 spot on the squad's list with 16 ground balls. With junior Bryanne Gilkinson coming off of a red shirt year, and Katharine Fox coming off of knee rehabilitation, coach Uhlfelder will be looking for this talented group of returnees to be tough early on.
"We liked what we saw out of defense at the end of last year. Thea was able to get aggressive and caused some crucial turnovers; Kinsey became a presence, while taking more chances; and Nyerr's understanding of our defense helped our consistency. Their ability to make big plays not only gave the ball back to our attack, but also pumped up the rest of the team. I'd like to see them start as contagious as they left off. We saw how down the stretch it gave our team a lot of confidence," Uhlfelder said.
The Cardinal returns all of its goalkeepers for the 2006 season. Senior Kate Horowitz has seen limited action in the cage during her three seasons at Stanford, but provides key leadership for the defensive unit and shooters. She and junior Carly Posner have maintained a dependable day-to-day presence, providing a work ethic that has improved and challenged Cardinal shooters. Sophomore Laura Shane saw the most action, starting all eighteen games. She had a standout freshman year, registering 9.27 goals against average, and a 56% save percentage in 2005. "She is a very quick, athletic and active goalkeeper," Uhlfelder said. "Laura made some big saves and big interceptions that fueled us."
Cardinal lacrosse welcomes eight new faces to the program this season, five earning USLacrosse All-America honors as high school seniors. The new group of players features two attackers, three midfielders, and three defenders.
Expected to compete in the attacking end are freshman Aly English and Elizabeth Fries. English, a native of Long Island, NY, joins the team after earning high school academic All-America honors in New York, scoring 73 goals, 16 assists, and 90 ground balls her senior year at Manhasset High. Bis Fries comes to The Farm after a dominant multi-sport high school career in Princeton, NJ. Fries broke The Hun School record with 323 points her senior year, cracking the 200+ career goal mark and earning All-State and All-County honors.
Coach Uhlfelder brings three new midfielders into the fold this year, and each will be asked to fit into a variety of roles. Bess Seigfried, Jamie Nesbitt, and Maris Perlman bring speed and playmaking ability. Siegfried, from Philadelphia, PA, was named 1st team All-America as well as MVP, All-League, and Captain at The Agnes Irwin School. Perlman comes to Stanford as an All American from Kingstown, RI, owning a high school career of Academic All-America and All-State accolades. Nesbitt, who earned All America honors in Cincinnati, OH, comes to Stanford with two time 1st Team All-League and All-State accolades, while breaking her school career scoring record.
Joining the Cardinal defense are Vicky Fanslow, Polly Brown and Melissa Vogelsong. Fanslow and Brown were recruited out of NY and D.C., respectively. Fanslow earned All America honorable mention honors on Long Island, as well as being selected All-Nassau County and All-Long Island. Brown also earned All America honorable mention honors in D.C., while serving as captain for her National Cathedral team and earning All-Metro honors. Vogelsong was named Academic All American and recorded 44 goals, 72 shots and 12 assists' her senior year.
In off-season play, the freshman represented various national club teams last year. Fanslow and English competed for the Long Island Yellow Jackets; Brown for Future Elite; Fries for Metro Lacrosse; Nesbitt for the X Team; Perlman for the Connecticut Lacrosse Futures, and Siegfried for Phantastix Elite.
"This class has talent in key positions for us. We are excited for these freshman 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 again assembled an extremely competitive schedule, facing three teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season including Northwestern (March 25), Dartmouth (March 30), and North Carolina (April 2). The Cardinal also takes to the road for non-conference clashes against Loyola (April 15), Connecticut (April 28), and Cornell (April 30). Coach Uhlfelder's team will play host to a number of powerful national opponents in addition to Northwestern, including Ohio State (February 24), Notre Dame (February 26), Vanderbilt (March 5), and Columbia (March 11).
"It has always been my philosophy to play the toughest schedule we can," said Uhlfelder. "You learn the most from your losses and stand to gain the most from your wins. We will host as well as get to the places around the country that present the best opportunities for us."
In the third season of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play, the Cardinal's conference slate includes road matches with California (February 18), and Denver (April 15). Stanford will play home MPSF games against Oregon (February 11) U.C. Davis (March 3) and St. Mary's (March 12).
The 2006 campaign marks Oregon's second season of participation in NCAA lacrosse, and with the move of UC Davis from Division II to Division I in motion, the MPSF is moving toward having the six teams necessary for the NCAA to consider the league for an automatic qualifier to the championship tournament.
Under Uhlfelder's guidance, Stanford University has been a tremendous ambassador for the sport of women's lacrosse. Although the Cardinal will break from hosting an opponent for the deBeer East/West Challenge, the program will again run the Western States Tournament--50 high school and post-college teams competing April 8th and 9th. In addition, Stanford Lacrosse will run its Cardinal Elite club program through the beginning of pre-season. This marks the inaugural year for the very popular club program.
"Supporting the growth of lacrosse here is fun and exciting for our players and staff," said Uhlfelder. We have watched camp and club attendance more than double, and we have watched more sports fans turn into lacrosse fans. One of our team goals is to showcase and host the most competitive lacrosse to the Bay Area. Individually our players take their jobs as role models and ambassadors, seriously. We volunteer to teach the game in all kinds of settings, and we sign up to be visible whenever possible--even during our season."