Don’t count out Laker women’s lacrosse coach Kevin Cooke, now in his second year and his squad in 2018. Despite the twists and turns of a solid yet heartbreaking 2017 season, his Lakers — ranked No. 15 in the Preseason IWLCA Coaches’ Poll and No. 18 in the Nike/US Lacrosse Poll — still received two first-place votes and the second spot in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) preseason poll amid strong optimism. This comes off a strong 13-5 2017 season that saw the Lakers string together both a six- and five-win streak.
“We are a competitive team ourselves with a strong, smart group of attackers,” said junior Spencer Hess. “They work together well and will make scoring opportunities quickly and effectively.”
Yet East Stroudsburg is now the favorite in an ever-shifting landscape in Division II. The Warriors went 17-3 last season and occupy the respective No. 10 and No. 9 positions on the aforementioned national polls after a shocking school-best 2017 campaign. Bloomsburg sneaked in to the fifth spot in the conference poll in between IUP and a Lock Haven/Slippery Rock tie, followed by Seton Hill, Millersville, Shippensburg, Gannon, Kutztown and Edinboro.
Overall, new regions, new rule changes and a talented freshman class have continued the theme of change heading into 2018. Yet some of the biggest changes are also coming in terms of personnel.
Junior defenseman Diana Schmitt was named the third and final co-captain in January. The Long Island native started all 18 contests last season. Schmitt finished second on the club with 33 grounders and fourth in turnovers with 15.
The Lakers also inherit 13 freshmen, the second time in three years they boast a double-digit freshman class. Freshman Raelyn Tiberio is seeking to have an immediate impact and is the leading candidate to take the starting goaltender job voided by Gabby Gravino. Other notable first-timers looking to fill voids include four first-year midfielders, including Tiberio’s classmate Paige Cocina, along with Alexa Perna, Julia Rescott and Victoria Sullivan. Junior Catherine Meegan is joined by her sister Molly on the defensive end along with Meghan Sands and Payton Cook, while Olivia Africa, Arielle Brown and Megan Fitzpatrick look to continue the offensive prowess.
“We love to work together in all aspects of play even if it’s a set-up for a 1 v. 1 drive,” said junior Cassandra Ellis. “When we work together, we have fun and things start to click and that keeps us up beat.” Arguably the biggest piece returning for the Lakers is senior Taylor Izzo. She is coming off a Second Team selection and entering her senior season as co-captain. Last season, her 50 assists were second in the PSAC and the most by a Laker since Ally Keirn’s record-breaking 2010 season. “As for me personally, last year I was happy with how I played but I know I was a little timid because it was my first time playing college lacrosse,” said sophomore Lacey Netti. “This year I’m excited to see how I have grown as a player knowing I have gained more confidence. … I’m looking forward to contributing to our team’s success this season and hopefully winning a PSAC championship.”
The first contest for the Lakers is a Feb. 24 away game at Le Moyne. It won’t be until a March 17 Bloomsburg match-up that the Lakers play in the PSAC. “We’re expecting to have to walk into every game and give it our all,” said Ellis. “Our conference is very unpredictable with relatively even competition.”