The West Chester University women’s lacrosse team hasn’t missed a beat after winning a national championship, as well as their fifth straight PSAC title last season. The Golden Rams are off to a flying start this season, going 3-0 while outscoring opponents by a margin of 55-13.
In all, the Rams are returning four All-Americans from last year’s roster – attacker Jackie Baker, midfielder Courtney Whiting, defender Katy Crouse and goalkeeper Mary Beth Green.
They lost only one player from last year’s dynamic roster, unfortunately for the Rams it was their leading point producer Stephanie Kienle. Last season Kienle scored 65 goals and set an NCAA record by totaling a remarkable 143 points.
For most teams losing a player of Kienle’s magnitude could be a devastating blow, but the Rams have an unprecedented amount of depth, which includes Baker, whose 89 goals last season lead not only the team, but the entire country.
The Rams, who scored 424 goals last season to break their own NCAA record, will lean heavily on Baker, among their other weapons to replace Kienle’s scoring prowess.
“We’ll probably utilize about six different players in a variety of roles to help compensate,” head coach Ginny Martino said. “We are very deep in the midfield and have some kids that can play either attack or mid.”
Other members of WCU’s high powered offense include Gabrielle Stitz and Nicole Haines. Stitz recorded 22 goals and totaled 40 points last season while Haines netted 48 goals and 61 points of her own.
At the other end of the field is Green, who is WCU’s last line of defense and was named defensive MVP of the NCAA tournament. She also finished third in the nation last season posting a stellar 6.83 goals against average, proving that the Rams have weapons on both sides of the ball.
“It was wonderful to see (Green) get some recognition last year,” Martino said. “She is overshadowed by our ability to score goals and our aggressive style of defense in front of her. But, she is tough and has quick hands. She’s a vocal leader out there on defense.”
As for Crouse, she is coming off a very impressive sophomore season. In addition to her All-American honors, she was voted Defender of the Year in Division II by Womenslacrosse.com. Her 2.29 caused turnovers per game average was good for fourth best nationally.
Other returning defensive standouts include Kimberlee Hachen and Lauren Tatios.
Hachen recorded 38 groundballs and 26 caused turnovers last season. Tatios earned second-team All-PSAC honors for her work in the defensive zone. She recorded a total of 42 groundballs for the season.
WCU’s midfield is anchored by Whiting, whose talent in the face-off circle is matched only by her ferocity on defense. Last season she forced 32 turnovers while recording 63 points, including 47 goals.
Claire Grimwood, who earned Rookie of the Year honors last season after totaling 46 goals and 28 assists, is another of WCU’s speedy midfielders.
Senior Gina DiDomenicis is yet another member of this highly talented and versatile group. Last season she was named the team’s 2008 scholar-athlete of the year as well as to the first team All-PSAC for the third year in a row and her skill at face-offs is amongst the best in the country.
The Rams opened their season with a commanding 20-3 victory on Monday, March 3 on the road against Notre Dame College (Ohio). The two teams met in Hilton Head, S.C.
Baker netted four goals and added three assists, while Whiting scored five goals with one assist to lead the way for WCU. Haines added two goals and three assists of her own. Green made five saves in net for the Rams.
Next the Rams set their sights on Slippery Rock, a match that was also held in Hilton Head. WCU routed Slippery Rock 20-4 to capture their second win of the young season.
Whiting scored four goals and contributed two assists, while Haines notched a hat trick and two assists. Baker scored twice in the match, while adding two assists.
West Chester held a comfortable 15-0 advantage at halftime, which allowed the entire roster to see action in the second half. Green started in goal for the Rams and played for 50 minutes. She was replaced by senior Brittany Barnes, who surrendered one of the four Slippery Rock goals.
From there WCU headed to Shippensburg for an important PSAC Eastern Division match up.
Shippensburg kept things close in the first half, even taking a 2-1 lead at one point, which marked the first time all season that the Rams have trailed in a game. WCU battled back and by the half things were knotted at three, as the two defenses battled for supremacy.
The second half was all Rams, however, and they capped it off by scoring eight unanswered goals over the game’s final 12 minutes to pick up their third victory of the year, winning this one by a score of 15-6.
Leading the way for the Rams offensively was Grimwood, who finished the day with four goals and two assists. Julia Walsh also found the back of the net four times and registered one assist. Chrissy Stokes finished with a hat trick.
Green played the whole game in net and finished with 11 saves.
WCU is currently in the midst of a 23-game winning streak, which dates back to last season and they have now won 40 straight regular-season PSAC contests.
The Golden Rams have an as yet unmatched level of speed, agility and toughness on both offense and defense. The depth they have throughout their line up makes them a difficult match up for any opponent and if their hot start is any indication, WCU could be in for another exciting championship run.
Colin McGlinchey is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu.