YORK, Pa. – With 14 consecutive CAC titles, it's no surprise that Salisbury was once again selected as the unanimous favorite in the CAC Women's Lacrosse Preseason Poll. The Sea Gulls received eight first-place votes and 64 points in a vote among the conference head coaches.
Mary Washington placed second in the poll with 54 points and one first-place vote, while Christopher Newport (45 points), York (44 points), and St. Mary's (42 points) rounded out a tight top five in the rankings.
Marymount (30 points), Frostburg State (22 points), Wesley (15 points), and Southern Virginia (8 points) rounded out the nine CAC women's lacrosse teams in the preseason poll.
2017 CAC Women's Lacrosse Preseason Poll
|1. Salisbury (8 first-place votes)||64 points|
|2. Mary Washington (1 first-place vote)||54 points|
|3. Christopher Newport||45 points|
|4. York||44 points|
|5. St. Mary's||42 points|
|6. Marymount||30 points|
|7. Frostburg State||22 points|
|8. Wesley||15 points|
|9. Southern Virginia||8 points|
Last season was a record-breaking year for CAC women's lacrosse, as four teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in conference history. Joining conference-champion Salisbury in the NCAA's were St. Mary's, Mary Washington, and York. The previous CAC record for NCAA participants was three, which occurred three times - in 2001, 2003, and 2012.
Mary Washington advanced to the Sweet 16, while Salisbury made it to the Elite Eight for the 12th time in 13 years. It marked the second time in the previous three seasons that two CAC squads advanced to the Sweet 16.
All four NCAA participants from last season are ranked in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) Preseason Top-20, with Salisbury leading the way at No. 5. York also cracked the top 10 at No. 10, followed by No. 16 Mary Washington and No. 18 St. Mary's.
Below is a team-by-team preview heading into the 2017 campaign:
CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT is coming off of a 2016 campaign that saw the team post an 11-5 record while climbing as high as 15th in the IWLCA National Coaches Poll. Under the guidance of second-year head coach Lisa Valentine, the Captains welcome back seven starters from last year's team, including three All-Region performers. Second-team All-American Meaghan Galvin headlines the veterans after ranking second in the CAC with 72 points while setting a new single-season program record with 82 draw controls in 2016. Junior Catie Chess and sophomore Emma Walsh also nabbed All-Region honors last year and are two of the team's five returning All-Conference performers.
With her first year now in the rearview mirror, FROSTBURG STATE head coach Hayley Engster is optimistic that her Bobcat lacrosse team can climb the CAC standings in 2017 and compete for a spot in the CAC Tournament. Engster should have the talent and depth to do just that, as she welcomes back nine seniors, including several key starters. As a whole, FSU returns its top eight scorers from last spring, three starting defenders and third-year starter Dylan Teitelbaum in goal. The senior duo of Megan Hart and Molly Hart along with sophomore Morgan Cavey will handle the scoring duties up front after combining for 88 points during their junior seasons.
MARY WASHINGTON enters the 2017 season with high expectations following last year's 15-5 season that saw them advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Heading the list of returnees is junior All-American Kirsten Littlefield. Also back for VaSID State Coach of the Year Caitlin Moore are all-region selections senior Maiah Bartlett, sophomore Mackenzie Maguire, junior Holly Hudson, and senior Emily Mott. Maguire, the reigning CAC Rookie of the Year, led the Eagles with 43 goals and nine assists for 52 points. The Eagles lost just two starters to graduation, and will look to build off last year's experience to go even further in 2017.
MARYMOUNT had a breakout season in 2016, posting its first winning season since 2003, while earning a spot into the CAC postseason and entering its first-ever ECAC Championships in which it advanced to the semifinals. The Saints will look to better that year, a year that they won a program-best seven-straight games, graduating just two from 2016. Led by All-CAC members Abby Wescott, Liah Agouras and Bridget Odom, Marymount has a plethora of experience at every part of the field. Wescott, through just two seasons, already sits atop the program record book in career assists, single-season assists, and comes in at eighth in career points entering her junior year. Head coach Kate Athing, entering her third season at the helm, will also look to her four-year senior core of Catina Boster, Natalie Tinkham and Meghan Higgins to maintain the glue that the young team has created over the past few seasons, as they head into a schedule that has four-league opponents ranked in the IWLCA Top 20.
Second-year head coach Erin McDonnell and the 2017 Seahawks are motivated to improve upon last year's successful campaign, which saw ST. MARY'S make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. This year's 20-woman roster will benefit from the leadership and drive of its five seniors - All-CAC performer Mackenzie Rayburn, Meg Gesner, Abbey Harrison, Haley Sieglein, and Erika Kopf. Gesner (31g, 16a), Harrison (20g, 3a), and Kopf (13g, 10a) were three of the team's top-five scorers last season while Rayburn (40 gb, 26 ct) and Sieglein will protect the defensive side of the field.
SALISBURY heads into the 2017 season looking for its 17th CAC championship and fourth national title. The 14-time defending league champions return four All-CAC selections from the 2016 season, led by seniors Gabbi Nieves, Kayla Miller, and Kacy Koolage. Nieves and Miller were first-team picks, while Koolage made the All-CAC Second Team. Junior goalkeeper Gianna Falcone will anchor the defense again this season after her first-team All-CAC selection a year ago. Nieves and Falcone were each named All-Americans in 2016 and have already earned honors for the 2017 season, with each being named to the Inside Lacrosse Player of the Year Watch List.
SOUTHERN VIRGINIA returns leading scorers Rainey Whitworth and Zoe Bradshaw as well as Claire Houghtaling and Emily Lamb Winslow. The Knights are in search for their first Capital Athletic Conference win as a program.
Under first-year head coach, Jillian Lontz, WESLEY looks to improve and contend for a playoff spot in 2017. The Wolverines will be paced on the attack by sophomore Bailey Olds, who led the team in scoring with 27 points in 2016. Fellow sophomores Brianna Bacon and Fallon Fore will look to repeat their freshman campaigns, where they each tallied double-digit goal totals. Senior Kaitlyn Brennan returns to the team in 2017 after notching 22 goals and 28 points in 2015. Junior Alexis Galloway will anchor the defense for the Wolverines after tying for the team-lead in caused turnovers in 2016 with 18.
YORK enters the season coming off their fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance as they are looking to return to the CAC championship game after losing in the semifinals in 2016. Spartan head coach Jen Muston enters her tenth season with a renewed excitement about her program. Muston has a strong core of returning players to go along with a dynamic and exciting freshmen class. Muston welcomes back a pair of All-CAC performers as midfielder Melissa Meehling and defender Nicole Clauter return to the Spartan lineup. York's leading returning scorer Katelyn Cattrano (33 pts.) will be joined by Meehling (26 pts.) and Rachel Saks (22 pts) as the Spartans will look to be an explosive and more dynamic office. Clauter and captain Erin Mensch will anchor the Spartan defense.