LANCASTER, Pa. – The Ursinus College women's lacrosse team was picked seventh in the Centennial Conference preseason poll.
The Bears received 34 points in a sampling of the league's head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Defending national champion Gettysburg was the unanimous favorite with nine first-place votes and 81 points, although Franklin & Marshall (73 points, 1 first-place vote) is the reigning CC champion. Muhlenberg (62 points) was third, followed by Dickinson (55), Washington College (48), Haverford (44), Ursinus (34), Swarthmore (23), McDaniel (21), and Bryn Mawr (9).
Ursinus returns nine players who made at least ten starts in 2017, when the Bears finished 7-9 overall and 4-5 in CC play. The Bears must replace a pair of departed all-conference performers in Lisa Grous '17 and Bridget Sherry, a two-time All-CC honoree who is studying abroad for the spring semester, but the cupboard remains well stocked for a playoff hunt.
Senior Franny Liberatoscioli transitioned to and thrived in an offensive role last season, racking up team highs in goals (29) and points (9) en route to second team All-CC recognition. Providing dynamic energy all over the field, she was second on the team in draw controls (35), ground balls (28), caused turnovers (19), and free-position goals (8).
Junior Abby Goldstein (16 goals, 6 assists) and sophomore Haley O'Malley (15 goals, 5 assists) are coming off strong seasons, and the Bears' attack should receive a big boost from senior Taylor DeBernardi and sophomore Rachel Dunne. Both had injury-plagued campaigns a year ago; DeBernardi played in just six games, and Dunne finished with two goals and three assists in her only appearance as a rookie.
Ursinus lost three starters in the midfield, but the unit remains in good hands with juniors Emily DiGiorgio and Kaci McNeave back in the lineup. DiGiorgio netted 29 goals a season ago and McNeave posted 10 goals and 10 assists; McNeave, a starter on the women's basketball team, may miss the season opener for a CC hoops playoff game next week. Junior Courtney Cortese, who registered 19 goals and 36 draw controls as a freshman, is back after missing all of last year with an injury.
With nine of its 11 incoming freshmen playing in the midfield or on attack, head coach Katie Hagan expects to reap the benefits of increased depth in both units, as well as a greater diversity of scoring options.
Seniors Alycia Hildebrand and Amy Lee return to anchor the defense. Hildebrand has started for the majority of her three seasons at Ursinus, and Lee was solid in her first year as a starter. Junior Emily Blaskzow (11 starts) and sophomore Julia Gilpin (7 starts) also bring starting experience to the back line.
Junior Kaitlyn France returns for her second year as starting goalkeeper. She posted 80 total saves and a 10.24 goals-against average last season.
The Bears open the 2018 season on Tuesday, February 20 at Cabrini.