February 24, 2009

Pioneers Ready to Defend NEC Title

Feb. 24, 2009

The Sacred Heart women's lacrosse team had a magical run in 2008 winning a school record 12 games on their way to the program's first-ever Northeast Conference Championship. Head coach Laura Cook has the Pioneers ready to defend their title in 2009 with a mix of battle tested veterans and talented newcomers led by senior captains Mary Montesarchio (Cortlandt Manor, NY) and Amanda Williams (Monroe, CT).

"Mary and Amanda are tremendous leaders, both on and off the field, two of the best this program has ever had," stated Cook. "They lead by example everyday. We are going to need that this year as we look to some of our young players to step in and play key roles."

The Pioneers have a wealth of talent back on offense with the return of three of the team's top-five goal scorers from last spring. Montesarchio, Williams and junior Carissa Hauser (East Northport, NY) all return off All-NEC seasons where they each scored 20 or more goals.

Montesarchio, a two-time SHU captain, is coming off a record setting season where she garnered All-NEC first team honors for the second-straight year while leading SHU to their first-ever league title. She led the team in scoring with 58 total points on 20 goals and 38 assists. She finished the year second in the NEC in assists and eighth in points per game. She also added 38 ground balls, 37 draw wins and 21 caused turnovers in the year. Montesarchio's seven assist afternoon against Lafayette set a new Division I record for assists in a game. She also set new marks for assists in a season and career assists with her 38 assists blowing past the former mark of 18. Heading into her senior season, Montesarchio leads all active Pioneers with 130 career points on 62 goals and 68 assists.

Williams put the stamp on a break-out junior season by earning NEC Tournament MVP honors in leading the Pioneers past Quinnipiac in the title game. Williams collected nine points over the two game tournament to earn the MVP award. In the 12-11 win over Monmouth, Williams tallied three goals and an assist with three draw wins and facing Quinnipiac in the Championship game with Quinnipiac, she totaled five points, scoring three goals and assisting on two, including the game-winner with three seconds left.

Williams led the team in goals scored with 45 and was second only to Montesarchio with 56 total points. She finished the year sixth in the NEC in goals per game and tied for the league lead with four game-winners. Her outstanding play on attack earned her a spot on the All-NEC second team last season. She enters her senior campaign with 99 career points on 79 goals and 20 assists.

Hauser earned All-NEC second team honors last season after scoring 26 goals with nine assists. She was also named to the NEC All-Tournament team after a five goal effort in the championship game. Hauser, who missed some time early in the season with an injury, came back once conference play kicked in and finished the year with 26 goals in 12 games to rank eighth in the NEC in goals per game.

Junior Cori Horelik (South Windsor, CT) will step into a starting role this season and the Pioneers will also look to freshmen Kate Kmiotek (Farmingville, NY), Alicia Fuchs (Bay Shore, NY) and Kaitlin Rochler (Wading River, NY), a transfer from Oregon, to contribute offensively. Horelik scored nine goals with three assists while mostly seeing time off the bench last season. SHU will need to replace a combined 95 total points from last season with the losses of Liz Ottey and Katie Salamone to graduation.

The Pioneers will rely on an experienced group of defenders led by junior goalkeeper Chelsea Wagner (Aurora, CO) and junior Jackie Pierce (Cortlandt Manor, NY). Wagner was an NEC All-Tournament performer last season and had a standout sophomore campaign. She led the Northeast Conference in save percentage making 198 stops (.520) and ranked third in goals against average at a stingy 9.80.

Pierce led all Sacred Heart defenders last season with 26 caused turnovers and 30 ground balls. She will lead a unit that will included senior Erika Spadafora (Saratoga Springs, NY), who started all 20 games last year, fellow juniors Farra Coppola (Wantagh, NY) and Nicole Gerosa (Branford, CT) and sophomore Elizabeth Drehwing (Wyckoff, NJ).

Spadafora had 10 caused turnovers in 2008 with 13 ground balls while Coppola scooped up 22 grounders with 10 caused turnovers, a goal and an assist on the year. Drehwing finished with 24 grounders during her rookie campaign and earned 19 starts in 20 games.

The 2009 season gets underway on February 25th as the Pioneers play host to Brown University on Campus Field. This year's slate will feature non-conference match-ups with the likes of Iona, Le Moyne, Fairfield, Lafayette, Stony Brook, Siena and Bryant. The NEC schedule will get underway with a rematch of last season's title game when SHU pays Quinnipiac a visit on March 22nd.