Coming off its first NCAA appearance, the Fredonia State women's lacrosse team has a tough act to follow in 2013.
The Blue Devils graduated arguably the most talented senior class in program history. Those departures coupled with a schedule which includes seven opponents ranked in pre-season polls presents a difficult challenge for head coach Chris Case and his players.
The season is scheduled to begin Saturday afternoon when the Blue Devils play host to Wooster at 1 p.m., on the University Stadium turf field.
Fredonia State’s women’s lacrosse team will open its season Saturday against Wooster at 1 p.m., at University Stadium.
"There's going to be some players," Case said, "who are going to have to play larger roles this season."
Eight starters return from the team which took the field and fell to St. John Fisher in overtime in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament. That loss dropped the Blue Devils to 14-5 overall, yet it was still a school record for wins in a season. In addition, the Blue Devils were 7-1 in the SUNYAC - another program best. Their only loss came to traditional conference power Cortland.
The 2012 SUNYAC Rookie of the Year is among the returnees. Katie Kleine, a junior academically with sophomore eligibility in lacrosse, accumulated a school-record 82 points last year (53 goals and 29 assists) while lining up as a midfielder. Big things are expected of her in 2013.
"Katie is going to play an integral role for us," said Case, who was the 2012 SUNYAC Coach of the Year, and is now charged with the task of finding other scorers on his team to help take some of the pressure off Kleine.
Among the candidates are senior midfielder Rachael Reinis, who missed a good part of last season with an injury yet returned in time for the post-season; senior midfielder Kaila Fox; junior midfielder Marissa Cussins, who returns to the program after a year hiatus; and sophomore attack Katie Glagolev. Except for Cussins, the others started in the NCAA game last May.
The other returning starters are senior goalkeeper Casey Chiesa and three defenders: juniors Chelsea Maderer and Mary Bruton and sophomore Jenna Cuddeback.
Case said junior Shelby DePew is likely to start at an attack position Saturday vs. Wittenberg. Two freshmen, attack Alicia Jones and defender Sarah Lindovski, also have cracked the starting lineup heading into the new season.
The reserves are led by senior Erin Edson, a versatile player likely to line up anywhere on the field with the exception of goalkeeper. There are also five freshmen back-ups: attacks Juliana Kotas and Katie Miller; and defenders Corrine Martucci, Lauren Metz and Jessica Tuttle.
All the goalkeeping duties will again fall on Chiesa. She enters the season as Fredonia State's career leader in wins (34-18) with 457 career, second most in program history. She has appeared 53 games.
Chiesa and her teammates will be challenged against what appears, on paper, to be a killer schedule. Case has scheduled non-conference games against four teams who are either ranked or received votes in the pre-season Lacrosse Magazine poll. They are St. John Fisher, Redlands, Occidental, and Wittenberg.
The other pre-season ranked teams are SUNYAC foes Brockport, Buffalo State and Cortland. Of those three, Cortland is ranked No. 3 and is the pre-season favorite to repeat as conference champ.
Curiously, the Blue Devils were left out of the pre-season polls. The omission most likely reflects the graduation last May of four starters, including the program's first First Team All-American, defender Megan Mietelski and all-time leading scorer Amy Simon.
Despite having to mark the other team's top offensive player in most games, Mietelski established a career school record for caused turnovers (102). She also set a single-season record with 72 draw controls last year and is second in the category all-time.
Simon closed out her decorated four-year collegiate playing career with 286 points, including 242 goals. Both totals are Fredonia State records. In addition, she's only the eighth player in SUNYAC history to surpass the 200-point mark.
Both women made the All-SUNYAC team all four of their years, and both made the Empire All-Region team twice. They will now serve as assistant coaches on Case's staff.
"Those," Case said, "are big, big shoes to fill."
Two other starters, Morgan McNamara and Karli Brinthaupt, have graduated. McNamara scored 142 goals and had 173 points, the second- and third-best totals, respectively, in program history, while Brinthaupt added 77 goals and 84 points. Also lost through graduation was reserve Sara Ceraso.