SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo women's lacrosse team will open up its season against Lenior-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
The Positives: The Lions are returning 16 athletes while only losing four seniors from last season. A big recruiting class joined the Lions with eight freshmen welcomed into the program. On the offensive side of things, the Lions returnees accounted for 120 goals of the team's 166 goals last season.
"We had a well-balanced attack last season and we are looking to continue a solid attack, but add more goals per game relying on our big threats to capitalize."
Looking to lead the attack for the Lions will be sophomore Abbie Ross who netted 29 goals as the team's top scorer in the 2015 season. Adjacent to her is junior Kelsey Burns, who recorded 26 goals and added six assists. Ross and Burns tied for a team-leading total of 32 points and both were named to 2015 Second Team All-SSC honors.
Points of Play: The Lions' tenacity from their overall fitness and the speed of play will set a major tone for their season.
"We try to play fast-paced lacrosse to take advantage of the fact we have a very fit and fast team," Coach Graham stated. "Especially with the new rule that will be active in two seasons, where there will be a hard 90-second shot clock, we as a whole want to get used to the pressure. You can bet every time we get the ball, we will go hard to cage."
The Saint Leo women's lacrosse team is not one to be mechanical on the field.
"We try to be more creative than structured; these women surprise me every day with how quick they think on their feet." Graham said. "We do not want robotic movements or plays that will result in taking away the originality that the girls so much possess."
The Lions are looking to anchor the offense with some immediate impact players from both the returners and fresh faces.
"Defensively speaking, we have very smart players in the back. They love to take risks, but we need to do it at the right time and make sure the defense as a whole is an aggressive bunch playing as an eight-person unit." Coach Graham said.
Names You Should Know: Before the whistle of every game look for co-captain Allie Sheftall in the circle. The senior and only returning captain recorded a team-leading 49 draw controls during 2015, and her experience, leadership and skill will ignite Saint Leo's offense from the start of every game. Amanda Coppolo secured the defense for Saint Leo after being the top defender over 17 games during her first season with the Lions. The redshirt sophomore caused 16 turnovers while picking up 17 ground balls, and she also recorded four goals on four shots. Sheftall and Coppolo received Second Team All-SSC honors in the 2015 campaign. Caroline Fraser and Jennifer Doyle are the two main parts of the backend offense. Fraser, a junior, played in all 17 games with 21 of her 22 shots on goal and recorded 10 goals with a remarkable .955 SOG percentage. As Doyle enters her last season, she will look to increase her time on the field after playing in 10 games in 2015 and recorded a goal and an assist. The senior was also inducted into National College Athlete Honor Society in April of last year.
"Walstad is a quick and explosive player from Chanhassen, Minnesota with a solid shot," said Graham.
"Haley Campbell has good size as a 5'10 presence with a lot of athletic ability, which is really nice to have out there." Graham said. "Kaylynn Purdy was a redshirt last season, so we as a team and staff are excited to have her on the field competing for the first time in the green and gold."
Season Outline: In the 2016 Sunshine State Conference women's lacrosse preseason poll the Lions landed third with nine points. There will be some tough conference play after being behind the preseason favorite Rollins and No. 2 Florida Southern who both also placed in the Top 10 of the IWLCA preseason poll. The Saint Leo women's lacrosse team enters its fifth season of competition with a challenging slate ahead of it, facing three 2015 NCAA tournament teams and a national semifinalist. Saint Leo host seven of 15 games at University Turf Stadium, including conference foes, Tampa and Florida Tech. The Lions will host five home games in the month of March alone, versus returning opponents Gannon and Queens (N.C.), and new opponents Indiana (Pa.), Dowling and Southern Connecticut State. The Green and Gold turned in a 9-8 overall record last season, but were an impressive 8-3 record at home.
For the latest news, updates, and information on the Saint Leo women's lacrosse team, visit SaintLeoLions.com. Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Lions news by following Saint Leo Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.