MORRISVILLE, N.Y. – The Morrisville State College women's lacrosse team will step on the field for the first time Saturday, kicking off the 2018 season with a non-conference bout at SUNY Oswego.
The Mustangs return 11 to the squad that claimed a second North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Championship Title just a year ago, and the program's first bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, and will look to again be a top contender as they entered the season as the favorite in the preseason coaches poll.
Morrisville State, who dominated opponents with their offensive attack, returns all three of their returning scorers from a year ago, and six out of the top seven point leaders, including All-Conference selections Gianna Branca (Camillus, N.Y.), Courtney Cavellier (Rodman, N.Y.) and Celia Abbott (Shortsville, N.Y.).
Branca led the Mustangs with 104 points in 2017 behind her 58 goals and 46 assist performance, while Cavellier added another 46 scores and four assists for 50 points. Abbott chipped in another 56 points with 41 goals and 15 assists as Morrisville State outscored opponents on average 14.16 goals per game to 10.0.
Cavellier was a force for Morrisville State in the midfield, claiming 69 ground balls and 39 draw controls, while causing 32 turnovers.
"We have multiple players who can make a big impact offensively this year," said first year head coach Taryn Burkholder. "We are looking forward to building on the success of last season, and will utilize our out of conference schedule to prepare us for conference play."
Of those returning, Burkholder expects sophomore Chelsea McNeal (Ithaca, N.Y.) to also make an impact offensively, as McNeal, according to Burkholder, has "improved significantly since the fall non-traditional season." McNeal registered 29 goals a year ago in her freshman season, while adding 20 ground balls and 11 draw controls.
Defensively, the Mustangs will be relying on an experienced unit that is comprised of returners Brianna Delcolle (Huntington Station, N.Y.), Alexis Firkins (Brockport, N.Y.) and Janet Hanehan (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.). The trio combined for 68 caused turnovers and accounted for 110 ground balls, while contributing 41 points to the offensive game.
"The team has the ability to overcome any obstacles they face this season and again compete for the title," said Burkholder. "We are extremely excited to get the season underway."
"Our newcomers will certainly help as we progress throughout the year, and are looking forward to what they will bring to our game this season."
Those new faces include transfer Lydia Cooley (Honeoye Falls, N.Y.) from Monroe Community College, who was part of a team that claimed their fifth NJCAA National Championship Title.
Morrisville State gets the season underway on Saturday, traveling to Oswego for a noon starting draw. As the winter storm rolls in, the Mustangs will take to the fields in Hilton Head, South Carolina for the college's spring break week, competing against Muhlenberg on the 5th, followed by Kenyon on the 7th.
A non-conference tilt at Hartwick College on the 15th will prepare them for the home opener against Potsdam on the 17th, followed by a cross town contest with Utica College on the Mustangs home field on the 21st.
They will open their conference slate on the 23rd at Lancaster Bible College, and will have two final non-conference bouts before returning to conference play.
Morrisville State will host Fredonia on the 27th and kick off action in April on the 3rd at SUNY Canton.
They resume conference action at Hilbert on the 7th, and have a rematch with semifinal opponent Medaille on Drake Field on the 8th.
The following week, Morrisville State will have back-to-back road games at Wells College and then Keuka on the 14th and 15th, before wrapping up the regular season schedule with four straight conference contests on their home field.
Route 20 rival, Cazenovia, comes to town on the 18th, followed by SUNY Poly on the 21st. Morrisville State will see Penn St. Abington on the 27th in a rematch of last year's championship final, before concluding the regular season against Bryn Athyn College on the 28th.
The full schedule and roster is available on the college's athletic website at www.morrisvillestateathletics.com.
Morrisville State College's curricula are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology and has been lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs.
The college was ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges 2018 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2018 Best Colleges rankings. For more information about Morrisville State College, visit www.morrisville.edu.