September 29, 2013

Northeast Squads Kick Off Fall at Melting Pot

by Arielle Aronson |

Gallery: Harvard Melting Pot Women's Event

Several top women's lacrosse teams from New England and beyond visited Harvard on Sunday for the Melting Pot. Photos by Brian Foley.

An early wake-up call greeted the University of Albany's women Saturday, as they arose before dawn in order to get to Harvard's Melting Pot tournament, some 167 miles away with a 9 a.m. face-off.

Despite that, the Great Danes showed no ill effects, putting together a solid outing at the multi-team event in Cambridge.

"We got off the bus five minutes before our first game and just jumped right on the field," said coach John Battaglino. "They just got more confident every time we touched the ball. We actually had to put the brakes on them a little bit because they kept wanting to score and I wanted them to work the ball around a little bit. They felt they could score any time, anywhere and I like that."

The Great Danes carried that energy throughout the day, and even in the afternoon, they jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead against Harvard University in Albany's final scrimmage of the day. The best news for Battaglino and his squad, however, was more in the diversity in scoring than in the speed. Albany had multiple scorers ranging from freshmen attacker Kotah Savitcheff and midfielder Sarah Martin to junior midfielder Nichole Eamer and senior midfielder Allie Phelan.

Albany will need to continue to see such a diverse scoresheet as it forms a new offensive identity after graduating former attacker Rachael Burek, who, as a senior, set school records for scoring in a single season by recording 50 assists and 84 points in 16 games. While the Great Danes will certainly miss Burek's production, Battaglino said the team's showing on Sunday has him looking forward to seeing what a more varied offense can do for his team.

"Now we have a little bit of depth," Battaglino said. "I can pull kids out that hadn't been off the field in three years, not at all. They'll be able to get a little bit of rest here and there, and that will make all the difference in the world."

Orange shaping up for more postseason success

After falling short in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament in each of the past two seasons, the Syracuse University women's lacrosse team is searching for more ways to improve in order to capture the elusive NCAA title. Although it is early in the fall season, Orange coach Gary Gait said he believes getting more from the team's midfielders will be key to this season's success.

"I'm really expecting our middies to step up a bit. Middies will be key for us," Gait said. "I think that's an area for focus for us this year. We've been so dominant in the attack that we need to balance our offense a little bit more and get more midfield scoring so that we'll thrive from behind the goal and in front of it."

Despite his clear goal for what could help his team this season, Gait said he was not making it a point for his midfielders to star in the tournament's scrimmages. Much of the scoring in Syracuse's scrimmage against Bryant on Sunday came on attack. The Orange excelled at short passes in near the net, as sophomore attacker Paige Savia and sophomore attacker Kristiana Ferguson both scored from well-placed passes that had them shooting from directly in front of the goalkeeper.

Gait said he will need more time to make a judgment on how his team looks, however, as he spent most of Sunday's tournament giving every player on the roster as much playing time as possible.

"We played different lineups in every game, so you're seeing a different group every time and that's the biggest thing," Gait said. "We'll probably go back to more of a starting type of lineup in another game, but we're happy with the way it's going so far. They can definitely play better and are capable of more [performance-wise], but they don't need it now. They need it in the spring."

BC and BU reignite rivalry as youthful Eagle defense shines

Fall ball scrimmages do not usually generate the intensity of a hotly contested game, but whenever Boston College and Boston University face off, pace and aggression within the game take off. That much was clear during the rivals' game Sunday when BU's aggressive play extended to involve goalie Christina Sheridan. The goalkeeper repeatedly left her net during the second half of the game to push back Eagle attackers until she eventually knocked down an Eagle and was pulled from the game.

The physicality throughout the game was a negative for BU, as it failed to contain its toughness within the rules of the game and committed foul after foul. Meanwhile, BC coach Acacia Walker said the rough play boosted her team. The Eagles suffered from a lackluster start to the day but shined in the fast-paced atmosphere a rivalry game creates.

"I think [my team] has to understand that if they don't bring aggression to every game, like our first game, then you get beat, but when you bring the aggression and you match the intensity, then you can have good result," Walker said. "It's all about energy and effort."

The Eagles looked full of energy both on offense and defense against BU. The Eagle attack shows promise for this season, as it features the program's single-season record holder in goals, junior attacker Covie Stanwick, and All-ACC midfielder Mikaela Rix.

But BC also proved it can hold its own on defense, and while the Eagles dwarfed BU in time of possession in the second half, the defense really stood out in the first half. It thwarted many BU threats with timely stick checks, strong positioning and slick moves, such as sophomore defenseman Molly Erdle's strip play to create a turnover just as BU was about to transition into offense.

"Our defense is doing really good. We're challenging them a bit with out sliding packages, but they're young and they're responding," Walker said. "If they listen and do their individual job and play hard, then we'll be successful."

After banner year, UConn looks to even brighter future

The Connecticut Huskies made history in the 2013 season as the first team in program history to earn a berth in both the Big East Championships and NCAA Tournament, but the Huskies are looking to go farther this year with a more developed attack.

UConn boasts one of the best players in the league in senior midfielder Lauren Kahn, and on Sunday, a number of other Huskies proved they can also lead the attack and thus create a deeper offense. Senior midfielder Kacey Pippet impressed in a game against Harvard with nimble moves around the net, and attackers Kelsey Daniels and Jacqueline Jordan also proved problematic for the Harvard defense thanks to their strategic positioning and crisp passes.

"We have a lot of attackers that I think, obviously Kahn did really well and has done really well for us, but we don't want to have it just be about her," said UConn coach Katie Woods. "Kacey Pippet has been phenomenal for us, and a couple of sophomores in Carly Palmucci and Katherine Finkelston have come back and done some really good things. The freshmen, a couple of them have shown some really good promise, so we're excited to see who works well in what situations.

"We want to be as balanced as we can because if everyone is watching Kahn, that's real easy to stop."

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