A mix of veterans and 10 incoming freshmen gives head coach Ginger Miles and the Cal lacrosse team a lot of depth and opportunities for her Bears to shine in 2014.
Cal will miss the departed two-time MPSF Player of the Year Megan Takacs, but Miles said that while filling the void of losing a player like Takacs will not be easy, her roster is filled with upperclassmen with experience and hungry newcomers looking to make a big impact.
“I think the team is looking really well,” Miles said. “With 10 freshmen joining the team, there was a lot of foundational stuff that we were working on during the fall, and I think our freshmen caught on pretty quickly. I was really impressed with their progress, and really happy that our team did such a great job of integrating them into our system.
“We’re going to have a much tougher time deciding on our lineups from week to week because there are so many more people in the mix. I’m excited about how much more depth we have at all positions this year.”
Seniors Paige Gasparino and Marissa O’Meally and junior Gaby Christman will be the team captains this year.
Gasparino and Christman are both midfielders, while senior Amelia Burke will also be in the mix to make a big impact. Miles said Gasparino will be a “floater” and will likely end up on a lot of team’s scouting reports as an offensive threat. Freshmen Charlotte Biffar and Caroline Schlegel will also be in line to boost the midfield.
O’Meally anchors the defense with returning starters Grace Parente and Jacqueline Pelletier. Junior Casey Reid and sophomore Michele DeVincent will also provide depth on defense.
Takacs wasn’t the only big loss from last season. The also-departed Melissa Humphrey had been the team’s leader in assists. Sophomore Lizz Lavie will take over Humphrey’s role as the feeder. Miles said Lavie spent a lot of time learning from Humphrey last year and she feels like Lavie is ready to become Humphrey’s heir apparent. Not only Lavie, but Miles is also counting on sophomores Brynn Gasparino and Nicole Beck, as well as incoming freshmen Bella Huther and Jena Fritts to make big contributions on the line of attack.
With the loss of goalkeeper Megan McGinnis, sophomore Helen Hansen will step in and start in the cage for the Bears. Miles said Hansen learned a lot from watching McGinnis last year and she’s confident that Hansen will help strengthen the defense.
As always, the Bears will be striving for the all-important MPSF Championship and a berth into the NCAA Tournament. The MPSF is getting stronger year after year, with 2013 champion Denver and perennial contender Stanford always posing as threats to Cal’s success. There are a number of Bears who have yet to enjoy a victory over those teams and Miles said she’d love nothing more than to see her team notch a couple big wins over those teams this year.
“We always want to win the conference; that’s our main goal,” Miles said. “We’ve come really close the past couple years. I think we’ve got a great group of veteran leaders on this team and some younger players who have been through the ups and downs. Our conference continues to get stronger every year. We can’t take a single team for granted. You go through the schedule and your opponents, and I’d say the majority of the games on our schedule are pretty unpredictable at this point. We will have a lot of games that can go either way.”
The 2014 season marks the 15-year anniversary of the Cal lacrosse program. The Bears will celebrate the anniversary during the April 6 match against USC. In addition, this season also marks the 10-year anniversary of when Cal won its’ lone MPSF title in 2004. Miles is hoping these benchmarks in the history of the program will help inspire the Bears to reach new heights this year and bring home their second conference championship.
“This being our 15 year anniversary, we’re a relatively young program in comparison to some of our counterparts across the country,” Miles said. “We’re really proud to be where we are. To look back at our history and see how far we’ve come, and to be a team that we think is capable of competing every year for an MPSF Championship is pretty remarkable. We’re at our 10 year anniversary of winning our first title back in 2004. We’d love to get our second one this year.”