By John Boccacino/Sports Information Director
Coming off the best season in school history, the Keuka College women's lacrosse team kicks off the 2014 campaign Saturday afternoon when Clarkson University comes to Penn Yan for a 1 p.m., non-conference clash.
The Storm return plenty of firepower, with their top six scorers and seven of the top eight scorers back from a squad that went 13-4 overall and a perfect 9-0 in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC).
Led by a pair of first-team All-NEAC selections, seniors Maggie Bonafede (Churchville, NY/Churchville-Chili) and Taylor Smith (Webster, NY/Webster Schroeder), the Storm set a school record for most wins in a season and earned the program's first appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament after knocking off Medaille College 20-3 to earn the NEAC postseason championship.
Ten student-athletes return for the Storm, who outscored the opposition 246-120 (a plus 126 goal-differential) and averaged 14.47 goals per game while allowing only 7.06 goals per game.
Under third-year head coach Kelly Lickert, the reigning NEAC Coach of the Year, expectations are high as the Storm embark on a promising 2014 season.
"I'm ready for the season and I'm excited to see what this talented group of returners and newcomers can accomplish," said Lickert, whose squads have compiled a 36-8 record in her time on campus.
"This team has really clicked and they're working really well with each other. They seem to be understanding that I have a new defensive system we're running, and they all seem to be buying in and enjoying it. We've been playing well and playing together, and we're seeing a lot of positives from each practice."
Offensively, the Storm are led by Bonafede, a dynamic attacker who scored a school-record 98 points on a school record 69 assists to go with 29 goals. Her 4.31 assists/game were third in the country among Division III.
Smith, a midfielder, set a school record by winning 93 draw controls, and her 70 goals were the second-most in a season in school history. Smith tallied 82 points, the third-highest total in program history.
But the Green and Gold are balanced in 2014, with six student-athletes returning who recorded 25 or more points last year.
Burt tallied 48 points (35G, 13A), Maguire recorded 35 points (26G, 9A) and Hudson added 27 points (21G, 6A) as Keuka will once again feature a talented collection of midfielders.
"The strengths of this team will be our versatility because we feel we're solid all over the field and have a lot of student-athletes who can play the different positions," Lickert said.
"We return a majority of our goal scorers on attack and we're absolute studs in the midfield. We can get up and down the field and we can move and transition the ball well. And in the preseason, our defense has been shutting down our attack, which has been exciting for me and a bit frustrating for our attackers. But that's a good sign that we're buying into our new defensive system and that it is working."
The Storm will need to replace Molly Hogan (Horseheads, NY/Horseheads), the first-team, All-NEAC goalie who posted a 13-4 record with a 7.22 goals-against average in 2013.
On defense, Keuka returns juniors Anna Patton (Newark, NY/Newark) and Maggie Mercurio (Whitesboro, NY/Whitesboro). After taking a year off, senior Kay Kostuk (Cortland, NY/Cortland) returns to provide a spark on defense.
Smith was second on the team in caused turnovers with 22 while Maguire was third with 21.
"I see big things from Kaycee Maguire. She's one of our main players in our new defense, and she's adjusted very well," Lickert said. "She's our leader on the defensive end and she's an all-around, solid player. I don't know what our starting lineup will be, but that's a good problem to have. We have at least seven goal scorers, seven feeders and seven contributors all across the field, so we don't have to just rely on a player or two here or there."
Freshmen Taylor Willsey (Mexico, NY/Mexico) and Maura Gosson (Syracuse, NY/Marcellus) are expected to see plenty of action on defense, while classmate Mandy Liesenfeld (Grand Island, NY/Grand Island) will also contribute on defense.
Freshmen Morgan Bruno (Seneca Falls, NY/Mynderse Academy) and Bethany Ennis (Carthage, NY/Carthage) can play both attack and midfield, while classmate Sydney Forshay (Phelps, NY/Midlakes) is expected to contribute as an attacker.
Keuka closed 2013 winning 11 of its final 13 games, before the perennial powers from SUNY Cortland ended the season with a 23-2 triumph in a first-round NCAA contest. Smith and Maguire each netted goals in Keuka's first-ever NCAA Division III tournament appearance.
"Our student-athletes are becoming better students of the game, and as a coach, that's really refreshing," Lickert said.
"I have full expectations of getting our team back to the NEAC tournament and, if successful there, back to the NCAA tournament. It's an exciting time for us to be able to really change the game for Keuka women's lacrosse and help this program get to that next level. We all want to get back to NCAA's and put out a better game for an NCAA opponent."
In the first meeting between the two schools, Keuka suffered a 13-3 setback to Clarkson on March 17, 2013.
After hosting Clarkson, the Storm welcome Alfred University for a non-conference clash March 19. Keuka hits the road for a challenging three-game stretch, with clashes against Hartwick College (March 26), fellow NCAA participant Adrian (Mich.) College (March 28) and Kalamazoo (Mich.) College (March 29).
The Storm return for a four-game homestand against Cazenovia College (April 5), Morrisville State (April 6), Lancaster Bible College (April 12) and Wilson College (April 13) before closing the regular season with five of six on the road.