By Joey Bachich
2024 is one of the biggest years for the No. 10 Lions in recent memory after a disappointing end to the 2023 season with their loss to Colby College in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Their overall record last season was 16-4, which was impressive, but the Lions want more this upcoming season. The College looks to acquire their 13th consecutive NJAC championship, and they can establish themselves as a top program in the country if they can put up a great record and go far in the NCAA Tournament.
The Lions schedule is as tough as ever, with four top ten matchups and three road games to start the season. The Lions will face No. 1 Middlebury College, No. 2 Gettysburg College and No. 7 Washington and Lee University in a testing three game stretch in late March. No. 9 Salisbury University will come to Ewing later in the year, marking the fourth top ten matchup of the year.
It is important for the Lions to enter the NCAA tournament battle tested, and with this non-conference schedule, they will be ready if they make the big dance. Winning the NJAC this season is a must for the Lions, who have dominated the conference for over a decade and look to win it again. The College is away to end the season against Rowan University and Kean University, which are tough back to back rivalry games to finish off with.
The elephant in the room is that the Lions lost 12 seniors from last season, meaning that many of the current sophomores and juniors have to step up. The positive news is that the team leader in points, senior secondary education major Ally Tobler, is back for her senior season and looks to lead the team again in points. Last season, Tobler had 80 points with 69 goals and over a 50 percent shooting percentage.
Senior nursing major Morgan Vaccaro looks to jump into a starting attack role after finishing with the sixth most points on the team with 32 last season. She only started one game last year, but she still had a major impact off the bench and will be one of the keys to success this season.
Senior nursing major Madison Wernik will anchor the defense this season after starting 40 out of 41 possible games over the past two seasons and causing 48 turnovers in those years. Wernik has to be a leader on the defensive side while also bringing some physicality to the table.
Finally, senior special education and iSTEM major Julia Charest also returns as the team's starting goalie. Charest is the emotional spark for the team. When she makes a save in big moments, the whole team feels the momentum shift and that will be a big reason for why the Lions win games this season. The questions will not be about the high end talent, but will be about the role players that have to have big time goals for this team to make another run at the NCAA Championship.
Feb. 24 at Morvian University
Mar. 2 at Lebanon Valley College
Mar. 6 at University of Scranton
Mar. 9 Home opener vs. Farmingdale State College