VILLANOVA, Pa - In 1997, the Villanova women's lacrosse team broke out on the national scene by making a run on the nation's top 15, receiving votes for the first time. This season's team loses seven starters from last year's squad, including the Wildcats' all-time leader in career points and assists, Shannon O'Neil. In 1998, Villanova has a new coach in Joanie Milhous and a team filled with youth, but with a strong work ethic and team unity, the Wildcats will look to add to the growing tradition of womens's lacrosse at Villanova University.
On the prowl for the Wildcats at the attack position will be junior co-captain and returning starter Meghan Doyle. Doyle is the team's leading returning scorer coming into the season, as she totaled 34 points on 18 goals and 16 assists in 14 starts during the 1997 season. Joining Doyle on the attack line will be sophomore Julie Shallcross and freshman Liz Kenny from Newtown Square. Fellow freshman Allison Newman will see time as a backup at the attack position.
"This is going to be a very exciting season with the new rule that puts a restraining line at the 30-yard line," said first year head coach Joanie Milhous. "This will create excitement on the attack and can also create a sneak attack from a low defender. With our speed and the new rule, our team can be a threat and will make things happen."
At the center position, youth will play a tremendous role with freshman Terri Overturf (Haverford, Pa.) taking over the starting spot in 1998. On the attack wings, senior Maria McCusker and junior Katie Monahan will bring experience to a young midfield. Last season, McCusker started in 12 games for the Wildcats scoring nine goals, and adding four assists for 13 points. Monahan played in 11 games scoring two goals and adding one assists for three points. Junior Sarah Gilhorn who scored two goals in 1997 for the Wildcats and freshman Molly O'Conor will back up McCusker and Monahan at the wings.
In the midfield, playing the right defensive wing spot is sophomore Katie Craig. Who started in eight of the nine games she played in last season, missing six games because of injury. In her eight starts, Craig scored two goals and dished out one assist for three points. Backing up at right defensive wing will be freshman Julie Feddeman from Potomac, Md. Across from Craig at left defensive wing will be senior co-captain Chrissy Burke. Burke , who will play defensive wing, started in 13 games last season tallying three points (one goal, two assists), in addition to being a key defensive presence for the Wildcats. Milhous will look to Burke to provide leadership to a young Wildcat team.
"We are young, but very talented," said Milhous. "Despite being young, we have strength returning at attack and in the midfield which will add to our overall team speed and give us a good transition game."
On defense, senior Jenna Hartley will start at third man for first year head coach Joanie Milhous. At cover point is junior Jen Morris who had an outstanding sophomore season for the Wildcats in 1997, as one of the team's most consistant defenders off the bench. Sophomore Sarah McGinty will backup Morris and see minutes as a reserve. Junior Maria DePiano will start at the point for Milhous after starting in five games last season. DePiano played in all 15 games in 1997 and tallied five points on three goals and two assists.
Losing an outstanding goalie in Christine McNeff (who played in all but eight minutes in net for the Wildcats last season) to graduation is a tough position for any team to be in. Milhous is confident, however, that her talented youth can step in and do the job to shore up the goal in 1998. Looking to do this will be freshman Julie Pinnix, who looks to be the starter in goal for the upcoming season. Backing up Pinnix is sophomore Nicole Candy, who played eight minutes in goal behind McNeff in 1997.
"We have a very young team without much game experience, yet they worked very well together in fall ball and at the fall ball tounament at the University of Delaware," said Milhous. "Our goals are to work together as a team and have great communication with all the players on and off the field, so that we not only win, but win as a team."
In 1998, youth is not a problem for the Wildcats, but rather a solution. Despite having only three seniors on their entire roster, the talent of the Villanova youth vastly outweighs the usual inexperience of a young team. With a strong group of midfield and defensive returners, and Meghan Doyle leading the scoring attack on offense, first year head coach Joanie Milhous is confident that her Wildcats will come together as a team, to quickly introduce themselves as a new force in women's lacrosse.