By Joey Bachich
The College’s women’s lacrosse team returns and are looking for back-to-back visits to the final four and a chance at a national championship this May in Salem, Virginia. After a 15-2 regular season last year, along with their 11th consecutive NJAC (New Jersey Athletic Conference) title and defeating no. 1 ranked Salisbury to get into the final four, the Lions are looking to have another monstrous season.
The elephant in the room is the graduation of a legend of the program, Jennifer LaRocca. LaRocca had a historic season with a school record of 140 points, along with 77 assists, which is second all time at the College. This will be a huge loss, but with the depth the Lions have, they can fill that point void with a few players.
A great start to finding a solution is how the Lions come into this season with a huge senior class, 13 in total. The most impactful player could be junior midfielder/attack Ally Tobler, who had 86 goals last season, tying a school record, and was second on the team in points. An impressive sophomore year has given her the honors of IWLCA 3rd Team All-American (2022) and has come into this year as a US Lacrosse Magazine Preseason All-America Honorable Mention (2023).
Speaking to Tobler about possibly breaking the goal record this year, she said, “I mean, most of the time I am just here to play… I don’t really notice it, but it would be awesome to break it.”
Tobler talked about the pressure of being a major goal scorer for the team.
“I don’t really put pressure on myself,” Tobler said. “I have such wonderful teammates, and everyone has certain skills to create a good game.”
Senior attackman Anna Wright is returning after a great junior season where she had 71 points and looks to have a 90+ point season this year. The do-it-all senior midfielder Jillian Westerby also returns with an impressive ground ball total of 37 that was tied for second on the team and added 41 points her junior year.
A fantastic two way option is senior Wayden Ay who played a good amount of midfield by the end of the season, leading the College in ground balls and was second in caused turnovers last season. The Lions also return junior defender Madison Wernik, who led the team in caused turnovers last season, along with junior goalie Julia Charest, who had an impressive .453 save percentage and was top 10 in the country in goals against with a very impressive 7.94.
ONE TO WATCH - Ally Tobler (M/A) looking to have a 87 goal season, breaking the all time scoring record, and hit over 100 points in a season.
Senior D/M Wayden Ay carries the ball in a win against the University of Scranton 12-8.
(Photo courtesy of Joey Bacchich / Staff Writer).
The Lions are ranked #3* in the nation and have a few really difficult out of conference games this season against #5* Gettysburg College, #20* Hamilton, #25* Roanoke, along with a elite eight rematch against #4* Salisbury, and a facing off against defending national champions #1* Middlebury. The NJAC are also going to be playing their best against the Lions who have been the cream of the crop in the division the past 11 years.
(*rank via the national ILWomen/IWLCA preseason poll)
GAME TO WATCH - #1 Middlebury @ #3 Lions, March 23rd 2023
Sharon Pfluger is one of the best college lacrosse coaches in the country and is back for her 37th season as the College’s women's lacrosse head coach. In her career, she has compiled a staggering 559 wins, 10 national championships, 36 trips to the NCAA Division III elite eight, had 102 straight victories between the years of 1991-1997, and has been a bully in the NJAC with a record of 71-2 since the College entered the division and 11 NJAC championships. If anyone can get every inch of talent out of this team, it is the IWLCA hall of famer coach Pfluger.
This year could be another amazing season for the Lions. The schedule is pretty tough with a few back to back games against ranked opponents, but they should fly through the NJAC and win their 12th conference title in a row. By the end of the season, the Lions should be around a 15 win team and be in a prime position to return to the final four. What will be a worry is the loss of 77 assists and 140 points that has been left for the Lions to fill. This could lead to a rough start to the year with trying to find their footing with a new way of playing, but a few players should be able to step up and carry the load. With the amount of talent that this roster has, and how deep the midfield lines are, this could be a new way to win for the Lions. Depth is something that needs to be used this season and can be a major strength for the Lions. Not sure how far they will go in the NCAA tournament, but another final four appearance is on the horizon if things go their way.