The Merrimack College women’s lacrosse team will turn to both new and old faces in several key places this spring, as the Warriors look to continue improving their position in the league standings and in the win column.
First-year head coach Paula Habel inherits a squad that is bursting at the seams with opportunity. It returns its top-two leading scorers from last season, as well as its starting goalkeeper, and 10 total student-athletes who saw action last spring. But fueling the potential for growth is the addition of 11 eligible freshmen who will not only add valuable depth and expand the bench, but add some new energy for a team looking to make some noise.
Returning captain Clare Blomberg (Wading River, N.Y.) will be joined by newly anointed senior captains Shealyn Anthony (Stoneham, Mass.) and Danielle Riley (West Point, N.Y.), as the trio guide a squad that is eager to take the turf and prove that, despite its youth, has the opportunity to make some noise in the Northeast-10 Conference this spring.
Merrimack shouldn’t lose a step offensively heading into the season, with lead returning scorer Hunter McCarthy (Avon, Conn.) back with the Navy and Gold after bursting onto the scene with a 31-point rookie campaign.
The junior tallied a team-best 29 goals – including eight free-position tries on 17 attempts – to pace the Warrior offense a year ago. She hardly ever missed, either, as indicated by her converting 75.7 percent of the shots she took. Her 56 shots on target and 74 attempts were also most among all Warriors in 2015, as well.
Rising junior Meghan Wiseman (Arlington, Mass.) will join McCarthy up front to start the year after turning in an eight-goal campaign as a freshman. Another newcomer, freshman Amber Feminella (Cortland Manor, N.Y.), could see plenty of playing time off the bat; she was an all-league selection at attack and scored over 100 career goals over the course of her high school career at Hendrick Hudson.
Freshman walk-on Emma Bonassar (Wallingford, Conn.) has impressed in preseason and could be one of the first players off the bench. Sophomore Alexa Emma (Suffield, Conn.) will look to provide additional depth up front after seeing action in 13 games last year.
Senior Aubrie Stouffer (Souderton, Pa.) was also a key offensive contributor last year, ranking second on the team with 31 points (22 goals, 9 assists).
The Warriors as a scoring unit will be looking to improve on their 7.41 goals per game figure that they registered last spring. But with the aforementioned offensive threats, that number should rise noticeably as the season progresses.
Like the rest of the team, veterans and newcomers will pace the midfield corps as the season begins, with Riley shifting up from the back line to lead the unit.
While listed as a defender last spring, Riley still had a knack for scoring, contributing nine goals and an assist over the course of 17 games. She was nearly unbeatable from inside the fan, going 3-for-4 on free-position opportunities. She also was quite the disruptor with seven caused turnovers on the year.
Freshmen Tess Destino (Gloucester, Mass.) and Bridget Schofield (Littleton, Mass.) will round out the starters in the middle of the turf, and both bring in plenty of accolades from their high school careers. Destino was a two-time All-Northeast Conference First Team pick and was her team’s Player of the Year as a junior. Schofield, meanwhile, was a two-time team MVP, League, Lowell Sun and Worcester Telegram All-Star.
Freshmen Aliza Jordan (Gorham, Maine), Kate Coughlin (North Grafton, Mass.) and Meaghan McKenna (Danvers, Mass.) will also look to contribute over the course of the year at midfield. Jordan was her high school conference’s Rookie of the Year and earned all-conference second team honors as a junior. Coughlin helped her team reach the district finals and capture the conference championship as a junior. McKenna was named to the Northeast Conference All-Star Team at Danvers High School, as well.
Merrimack ranked in the top-half of the NE-10 last year in scoring defense, and will look to improve even further with another blend of old and new faces.
Anthony will guide the group after playing up front last year. She was a four-goal scorer in 15 games but also caused six turnovers. Freshman Michelle Nadeau (Longmeadow, Mass.) is a former Brine All-American and helped her team post a 20-2 record as a junior at Longmeadow High School. Finally, fellow rookie Erin Blomberg (Wading River, N.Y.) joins her sister Clare Blomberg on the back line to round out the group. The latter saw action in nine games and finished with nine caused turnovers and 13 ground balls.
Junior Charlotte Fitzgerald (Sudbury, Mass.) joins sophomore Carly McKenna (Saco, Maine) as returnees on defense. Both saw time over the course of last spring, with the former seeing action in seven games. McKenna, meanwhile, finished with five caused turnovers in 16 appearances last year while also adding 12 ground balls.
Freshmen Delaney Brandon (Dedham, Mass.) also joins the fray on the backline after successful high school careers.
The Warriors will have two goalkeepers on the active roster this spring, including the one who was between the pipes for all 1,032 minutes last season.
Sophomore Alexa Petzold (Ridgwood, N.J.) will look to improve on her freshman season, where she finished with a 12.21 goals-against average and 130 saves, including five 10-save performances. She also ended the year with 22 ground balls.
Freshman Lauren Trepaney (Nashua, N.H.) also will push for playing time in net after a four-year career at Bishop Guertin High School. She was an all-state selection in three seasons – including one first team selection – and was the Defensive MVP of her junior campaign.
Merrimack’s 17-game slate includes seven within the friendly confines of Martone-Mejail Field, including Sunday’s season opener against East Coast Conference (ECC) foe Roberts Wesleyan. The Warriors will face all four teams from the North Region who qualified for the NCAA Tournament at some point, including reigning national champion Adelphi at home on April 8.
The season begins this Sunday afternoon in North Andover, with first whistle set for 12 p.m.