April 16, 2009

AU Enters Stretch Eying Future Dividends

by Andy Krauss | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

At 6 feet tall, American freshman Lauren Schoenberger creates a menacing presence to opposing defenses. Schoenberger headlines a sparkling freshman class, the first for AU head coach Katie Woods.

Senior attacker Kira Sonberg enjoyed a career day on Sunday afternoon. She led the American University women's lacrosse team to a 9-5 victory over Davidson, scoring five goals.  It was the best offensive performance in her four years at the Friendship Heights campus and a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing 3-11 season.

A true leader of these Eagles, Sonberg took pride in what she has done for AU this season, but knows that in this rebuilding season, the group to focus on has been the one that arrived last summer.

In her first two seasons at AU, head coach Katie Woods led her team to unprecedented heights, earning a spot in the Patriot League championship game both years and PL Coach of the Year honors in 2008.

This season has been a little different right from the beginning. The Eagles lost seven starters from last years PL tournament finalists. The injury bug then coincided with the snake bite, as the Eagles lost an alarming three players to ACL injuries -- two during fall ball and one during the season.  Although the record isn't sparkling, the Eagles have kept games close, losing four games by two goals or less.

"We knew it was a year that we'd have to be patient, having upperclassmen fill into a lot of new roles," said Woods.

Keeping that in mind, Woods sees much greener pastures in the very near future for her program.  That optimism has a lot to do with Woods' freshman class, her first full recruiting class at AU and an impressive one at that.

The newcomer that has made the most noise thus far is unquestionably attacker Lauren Schoenberger.  Through the first 14 games of the season, six of which she has started, Schoenberger ranks third on the squad in goals (18) and points (21).

At 6 feet tall, Schoenberger creates a menacing presence to opposing defenses.  Her stickwork and agility makes her an even more imposing force on the Eagles' front line.

"Lauren has already become a leader on this team," said Woods.  "She has put in the extra time to do whatever she needs to do.  On the field, she has a great ability to find the back of the net and get around the goalie."

Sonberg has really enjoyed the role of taking Schoenberger under her wing as an attacker this year and molding the future of AU lacrosse.  "From day one, Lauren's been 100 percent ready to go," said Sonberg.  "We've always known that she could pick up the AU style of play and run with it.  It's cool to see how many things have become second nature to her already.

Freshman midfielder Paige Lin has started 12 of 14 games for the Eagles this season.  The diminutive midfielder Bernadette Maher has scored nine goals, also starting six games.

Woods' eyes light up even wider when she discusses the two freshmen that she has barely gotten to see don the red, white and blue.

Just six games into the season, midfielder Emma Larkin tore her ACL in practice, but Woods knows what she has with her.  "Emma's the fastest kid on the team," said Woods.  "She has full-field speed and can beat everyone down the field playing as an offensive midfielder."

Midfielder Emily Reichard suffered her ACL injury in the fall and has been forced to sit out the entire spring.  Woods describes her as "quick and explosive" and expects those traits to return to the field in 2010.

Although she has just three games left in her career, Sonberg has seen the future of AU lacrosse and she likes it.  "You can see it in their eyes when they come out to practice," said Sonberg.  "This group of freshman is going to do great."

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