NORTON, MA- In the midst of her second season at Wheaton College, and despite being hired to lead the women's lacrosse program just over a year ago, Emily Kiablick believes her team has taken great strides in a short period of time and is looking forward to seeing how this season unfolds.
"Looking back, last year's players did everything I asked of them," said Kiablick. "I inherited a great group, and that leadership led to a strong foundation this season. Practices have been good because everyone is really confident in what they're doing defensively, and there's a lot of chemistry offensively."
Wheaton won four of its first five games to begin 2009, each by three goals or less, before finishing the year with an overall mark of 6-10 and a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) record of 2-4. The Lyons fell to Wellesley College in the first round of the league tournament.
Despite the record against a tough 2009 schedule that included two nationally-ranked teams and one which was receiving national votes from the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA), Kiablick knows many goals were met. She also expressed the good fortune of having a coachable group which was on board with a new philosophy.
"The team understands my coaching philosophy better this year," said the 2001 Springfield College graduate. "What once took a lot of thought and coaching is now very instinctive. You could tell they processed things and practiced them over the summer, so things come very naturally to them now."
In addition to returning 14 players from last year's team, Kiablick welcomes back second-year assistant coach Sarah Booker, a former four-year player at Division I University of Vermont. Booker will work closely with the defensive players, giving Kiablick an opportunity to focus more on the attack units.
Big into setting early goals, Kiablick has had to take a step back based on how well the preseason has gone. "It's tough to set concrete, black and white goals at this point," she said. "Saying we can beat this team or that team could be a great accomplishment, but we might be selling ourselves short. It's something I'll have to go back to as the season progresses. We're also not that deep, so injuries can change things drastically. Should they happen, we'll have to reevaluate. One of our major goals is to improve in the conference."
Kiablick will lean on her four-member senior class on both ends of the field, with captains Kate Kimball (Lexington, MA/Lexington) and Brittany King (Georgetown, MA/Proctor Academy) expected to have starting roles in the backfield. Kimball returns to the defense after posting the fourth-most caused turnovers on the team during 15 starts in 2009, while King moves to the defensive side after three years of playing in the attack and midfield. In 48 career games, King has 41 goals and 10 assists.
Cameron McManus (Yarmouth, ME/Yarmouth), a midfielder, and captain Chrissy Norberg (Winchester, MA/Northfield Mount Hermon School), who will be part of the starting attack unit, round out the Class of 2010. McManus, who is working to overcome an injury, picked up 11 starts in 16 games as a junior. Norberg tied for fourth in scoring with 21 points last spring.
Marianna Marcellino (Milton, MA/Thayer Academy) and Tess Meyer (Concord, NH/Concord) are the lone returning juniors from 2009, while classmate Kathryn Sudbey (Sandy Hook, CT/Newtown) rejoins the team for the first time in two years. Marcellino was the team's only goalie last spring but is one of four this year, as she is vying for a starting spot. Meyer, who started 32 of a possible 33 games her first two seasons, will lead in the midfield. As a sophomore, she tied for the program's eighth-highest single-season draw control total (46) while tying for the team lead in caused turnovers. Sudbey provides depth in the attack.
Midfielders Sydney Ferguson (Jamestown, RI/North Kingstown) and Brittany Whynot (Fountain Hills, AZ/Fountain Hills) headline an eight-member sophomore class. The pair is expected to start following freshman campaigns in which each player made 10 starts. Whynot tied Norberg with 21 points and was third on last year's team in scoring with 19 goals, while Ferguson finished with five tallies.
Sophomores Hailey Colburn (Concord, NH/Concord) and Katie Powers (Ashburnham, MA/Cushing Academy) have earned starting roles on attack after missing most of 2009 with injuries. When Kiablick subs out a midfielder, Colburn is expected to shift back to fill that role. A converted attack, Chelsea McLeod (Concord, NH/Concord) moves into the starting lineup as a defender. Alexandra Noyes (Freeport, ME/North Yarmouth Academy) is expected to see time in the backfield, while Hannah Ferris (Rye, NH/Portsmouth) and Sabrina Fiori (Newton, MA/Beaver Country Day School) will appear on attack. Last year, Fiori played defense, where she gained nine starts.
"We don't have as much depth as last year, but when talking about leadership, the sophomore class is really stepping up," said Kiablick. "It's great to see because a handful were sidelined with injuries last spring."
Wheaton's eight first-year athletes hail from seven different states, including five of the six New England states. Three of the eight are goalies, with Stephanie Hoomis (Duxbury, MA/Duxbury) battling Marcellino for the starting spot, but both are expected to see time, as Kiablick indicated she will use more than one keeper. Caitlin Hampton (Fort Lauderdale, FL/Pine Crest School) and Julie Stubbs (Newington, CT/Loomis Chaffee School) round out the goalie contingent.
Amy Moreira (Bristol, RI/Mount Hope) is positioning herself to start in the backfield, while Kristen Palmer (East Dorset, VT/Burr and Burton Academy) will side with Colburn, Norberg and Powers up front. Like Colburn, Palmer will likely also see time in the midfield. Chelsea Farrell (Cottonwood, UT/Judge Memorial Catholic), Elizabeth Hickey (Weymouth, MA/Weymouth) and Gabi Michaud (South Portland, ME/Catherine McAuley) add depth as a midfielder, defender and attackman, respectively.
Wheaton begins its 2010 campaign in Florida, as the Lyons are slated to play three games in four days, beginning with the State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo on Monday. The Lyons return north to face New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) foe Bowdoin College on March 23 in Maine. The Polar Bears were receiving national votes in the IWLCA preseason poll.
The Blue and White begins NEWMAC play at Mount Holyoke College on March 27 before hosting league foe Springfield College in its home opener on April 3. Tough road games against NESCAC schools Amherst College and Tufts University on April 8 and 22, respectively, dot the non-league ledger, with Amherst receiving national votes and Tufts ranked seventh in the preseason poll. Wheaton finishes its regular season on April 24 with a home game versus three-time defending league tournament champion and 11th-ranked Babson College. The first round of the NEWMAC Tournament is set for April 28.
"I didn't change the schedule around much this year," said Kiablick. "I want to give us a couple of years with the schedule because last year I changed virtually everything about the way we play on game days, and it was really hard for us to do anything with much confidence because I was dictating so much from the sidelines. With a more experienced group, I need to see us through this season and see how we compete."