October 11, 2012

30 in 30: How Does Franklin & Marshall Move On?

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Franklin & Marshall goalie Kelsey Hoffman started every game in 2012 and made a season-high 12 saves in the team's shorthanded season-ending victory over Dickinson.
© David Sinclair

Franklin & Marshall's women's lacrosse team is irritating English teachers everywhere this month. Fall is not supposed to be the season for rebirth. That's spring. It's practically symbolism 101.

The harvest has barely ended, but, six months after a hazing scandal left the championship-contending Diplomats with a silent spring, the program is experiencing new life.

In April allegations of hazing at F&M led to the suspension of 11 players, the dismissal of its coaching staff and the team voting to withdraw from the conference tournament. The Diplomats, who won NCAA titles in 2007 and 2009, were 12-2 at the time and had reached four NCAA semifinals in five years, before removing themselves from NCAA tournament considerations as well.

The Dips are shorthanded again this fall, with just 23 players. But a new coach, a new system, and some familiar goals have offered renewed hope at the Lancaster, Pa., school.

"To be honest," said Mike Faith, F&M's new head coach. "Everyone's just moving on."

How does Franklin & Marshall move on? It starts at the top.

Faith spent the past eight years turning Elizabethtown into one of the Middle Atlantic Conference's premier programs. His Blue Jays were a top-20 team in each of the past three seasons and reached the NCAA tournament in 2010 and 2012. In eight years, Faith guided Elizabethtown to a 97-48 record and five trips to the MAC title game.

This fall, Faith, who was an All-American at Salisbury, has been reworking F&M's system with strategies influenced by his background in the men's game. And while Elizabethtown should again contend in 2013, taking a job at Franklin & Marshall was a no-brainer.

At Elizabethtown, Faith had a part-time assistant coach, and that was an upgrade from the three-year stretch that he had no assistant at all. Last month, Faith announced the hiring of two assistants, former Lock Haven captain Christina Fried, and Nora McGurkin, who brings Division I experience from her playing days at La Salle, to round out his F&M staff.

"It's been a good adjustment," Faith said. "We've put in a new offense, a new defense. They've been very receptive. Our numbers are low, but they're getting a lot of reps."

Those numbers will be slightly higher in the spring. One Diplomat is currently abroad and two play for F&M's field hockey team, which actually has only one loss this season, to Elizabethtown. But there's plenty of talent for the coaches to work with right now.

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For last year's seniors, who won an NCAA title as freshmen, the suspension meant the end of their collegiate careers. But F&M's underclass gets a second chance. Only two eligible players opted not to return.

The reinstated Class of 2013 is particularly strong with midfielder Maggie Mae Shields, who was voted team MVP as a sophomore in 2011, and Jen Noon, who started 13 games at defense last season and picked up 29 ground balls.

"They're working the hardest at practice," Faith said. "They're pumped to get another year. It's good to seem them out there."

Of course, there are also impact returners who played under field hockey coach turned interim lacrosse coach, Melissa Mariano, in the final two games after the scandal broke, but before the season ended. Like junior goalie Kelsey Hoffman, who started every game in 2012 and made a season-high 12 saves in the team's shorthanded season-ending victory over Dickinson.

"She's a really outstanding goalie," Faith said.

Junior Caroline Krohn, who tied for the team lead with 15 assists in 2012 and is the team's leading returning goal-scorer, has had a great fall season, Faith said. Junior Christie Bonfiglio, who had 15 ground balls and four caused turnovers in 2012, and freshman Caroline Doran from Haverford (Pa.) High, highlight a strong defense in front of Hoffman.

F&M will also hold open tryouts in the spring.

It doesn't look like he'll have any trouble adding players for future seasons. He was hired late, in mid-July, but Faith was able to recruit some this summer. He found the scandal of 2012 to be a non-issue with prospective parents.

"That was surprising to me," Faith said. "I set their minds at ease to make sure they know I've never been involved with anything like that. Let them know I won't stand for it. We're going to treat everyone with respect."

Indeed, after a spring of upheaval it is business as usual this fall at F&M. This weekend, the Diplomats will face another team for the first time since canceling their season, when they head to Lock Haven to face the host Eagles, LIU-Post, and Indiana (Pa.). They are three of Division II's best.

In the spring expect the Dips to compete with Division III's best. The non-league schedule is as tough as ever with York, Washington and Lee, Cortland, Ithaca and TCNJ on the slate. Defending conference champion Gettysburg waits in Centennial Conference play.

And despite everything, F&M is again looking toward rival Gettysburg and the league title.

"That's our goal every year," Faith said. "Even with our low numbers, I expect us to compete. Our goal every year is going to be to win the Centennial Conference, get that automatic bid, and make a run in the national tournament."

It's a proverb familiar to any English teacher: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Franklin & Marshall has 16 players for the fall 2012 season. The team has 23.

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