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2006 Elizabethtown College
2006 marks in many ways a new beginning for Elizabethtown College’s women’s lacrosse program. After playing its first season in 2002, the team’s first senior class graduated at the end of 2005. As a result, Elizabethtown has lost 14 players from last year, and 11 of the 19 players on the 2006 team are first-year students. Second-year head coach Mike Faith has emphasized bringing this group together and building the inexperienced team’s work ethic throughout the fall and the spring pre-season, and he likes what he has seen thus far.
The team’s primary strengths appear to be its work ethic and its speed, while the Blue Jays’ youth and relative inexperience will prove to be their greatest challenges. “We need to adjust to the speed of the college game,” Faith said, “as well as the new boundary rule.”
The new boundary rule is something to which all teams will have to adjust this year, and it is the big “X” factor for the sport heading into 2006. The fluid, “natural” boundaries that had always been in use in women’s lacrosse are gone. No longer can a player toss a ball out of bounds and see her team retain possession because one of her teammates was the closest player to the ball when it exited the field of play. With the new, “hard,” boundaries, a bad pass out of bounds is now a turnover – the last player to touch the ball will have turned the ball over, much like the boundary and turnover rules in basketball. Many expect that this will translate into an increase in the number of turnovers nationwide in 2006. No one at this point is sure how dramatic that increase will be. “We’re really emphasizing stick work [in practices] as a result,” Faith explained, as a means to cut down the number of potential turnovers. The teams that adjust to this rule change most quickly could possess an advantage, especially early in the season.
As far as this young group adjusting to the college game in general, the Blue Jays’ natural speed and intensity should help them a great deal. Along the way, however, the team will likely meet a few speed bumps in its development. “There is a lot of talent on the team,” Faith said, “but it’s just a matter of youth.” He continued, “There might be a lot of up and down times this season due to youth,” as the team gradually works through its inexperience. The leadership of the Blue Jays’ veterans, including senior captains Michelle Collier (Plymouth Meeting, PA/Plymouth-Whitemarsh), Danielle Grooms (Frederick, MD/Gov. Thomas Johnson), Jignasha Patel (Mechanicsburg, PA/Cumberland Valley) and Leah Robinson (Huntingtown, MD/Calvert) will be key in helping the team get through its growing pains.
This team will likely seek to control games through its attack, which will be led by Collier, first-year students Katie DiRico (Lancaster, PA/Hempfield) and Katie Foley (Palmyra, NJ/Holy Cross), and sophomore Sarah Gilson (Ocean View, NJ/Ocean City). Collier started 15 and played in all 16 of Etown’s games last year, and she tallied nine goals and one assist for 10 points while scooping up 22 ground balls. DiRico was a first team all-league, first team all-district, and Keystone Team member while at Hempfield High School. Foley was a first team all-county and First Team All-South Jersey honoree while at Holy Cross High School. Gilson totaled 10 goals, five assists, 15 points and 24 ground balls for Etown as a first-year student in 2005.
In the midfield, Grooms and junior Jenna Brown return to lead a host of first-year students. Grooms is Etown’s top returning scorer from last year with 17 goals, 3 assists, 20 points, 42 ground balls and 20 draw controls in 2005. Brown tallied two assists and 25 ground balls last year. The incoming midfielders for Etown include Bri Duvall (Hampstead, MD/Hereford), Anna Ford (Salisbury, MD/homeschooled), Lyndsey Reeve (Turnersville, NJ/Washington Twp.), Kelsea Kozak (Brookhaven, PA/Sun Valley), Andrea Beard (Harrisburg, PA/Central Dauphin East), Jenn Hoover (Hummelstown, PA/Lower Dauphin) and Danielle Schaffer (Marmora, NJ/Ocean City). All will contribute over the course of the season, although Duvall and Ford could make key contributions right away.
Defensively, the Blue Jays bring back captains Robinson and Patel, as well as sophomores Kim Chuba (Wrightstown, NJ/Northern Burlington Regional) and Amanda Reid (Nazareth, PA/Nazareth Area). Etown also adds to its defense first-year student Dana Simmons (Flourtown, PA/Plymouth-Whitemarsh), who, according to Faith, “has really stepped up.” Also new on the defensive end for Etown is goaltender Jenn Hawkins (Havre de Grace, MD/Havre de Grace), who will take over the starting role between the pipes as a first-year student. The team has a high amount of confidence in the rookie goalie, Faith said.“Our main goal” for 2006, Faith said, “is to play hard every game, out-hustle teams, and let the chips fall where they may.” If the Blue Jays do that, Faith believes, the team could likely make its first-ever trip to the Middle Atlantic Conference playoffs. If that happens, it would be a great start for a young squad that is going to be largely intact for several years to come.