DESPITE HAVING an inside track on winning its fourth consecutive MCAL championship, the Redwood High girls lacrosse team will have to keep an eye on the challengers this season. Playing with an even larger target on their backs this season, the Giants will face challenges in league play from Marin Catholic and San Francisco’s University High.
MC is poised to do damage after losing just two seniors from their second-place squad in 2009. The Wildcats feature a good mix of established players who could give Redwood a run for their money. Santa Rosa schools Ursuline, who joins the MCAL after playing a non-affiliated schedule last season, and Sonoma Academy, which is under the guidance of new coach Eva Oliver, could play the role of wild cards.
Drake brings in a new coach, Keith O’Brien, and retained the services of its first-team all-MCAL goalie Annie Ostergard, and has ambitions of removing the stigma of past MCAL doormat. Tam could also figure to make some noise after finishing above .500 last year. The Red-tailed Hawks return team captain Tara Salisbury. San Marin features only a pair of seniors, but the Mustangs have been trending in the right direction in recent seasons.
Coach: Elizabeth Teasdale (second season)
Record: 6-2, 0-0 MCAL
2009 season: 15-6, 7-0 (MCAL champs, lost second round of NCS)
Outlook: The Giants return seven seniors to a team that’s smallest margin of victory in the MCAL in 2009 was four goals. In fact, Redwood was so dominant that it beat its MCAL opponents by an average score of more than 16-5 last season. Leading the attack will be a seniors and first-team all-MCAL midfielders Amelia Burke and MacKenzie Pope. Pope, along with co-team captains Madeline Dibble — a three-year starter at goalie — and senior attacker Nicky Ford — a second-team selection in 2009 — should have the Giants right back in the driver’s seat this season. Freshman Molly Hunt and Blaine Darden will also play significant roles on this year’s squad. Niki Melka, a key player in the Giants defensive scheme is battling a back injury, but hopes to be back on the field in a matter of weeks.
The last word: “We’ve got a pretty good lineup of girls that have experience,” said Teasdale, who played at San Diego State. “It’s great because we’ve got girls of all ages who are already taking on leadership roles. e We set a lot of goals before the season started — to go undefeated in MCAL, and get past the first round of NCS. And I think we can achieve those.”
Coach: Keith O’Brien (first season)
Record: 0-3, 0-1 MCAL
2009 record: 0-8, 0-6
Outlook: O’Brien joins the Pirates after coaching Petaluma’s Casa Grande program and takes over a team with limited success. Drake returns first-team all-MCAL goalie and team captain
Annie Ostergard for her senior season. Senior midfielder and captain MacKenzie O’Brien — Keith’s daughter — comes aboard after playing for Petaluma’s club team in 2009, while junior captains, defender Rachel Cranna and attacker Rachel Masoud, look to add some important depth to the Pirates. O’Brien will also look to Diana Ramos, Johanna Olesen, Aki Neumann, Ariana Pemberton and Audrey Bayless to provide stability and productivity to the Pirates’ program.
The last word: “For the most part we have a core of players who have some experience,” O’Brien said. “We’ve enjoyed sort of a resurgence of girls with an interest in lacrosse at Drake. It’s going to be a while before we make some noise in the MCAL, but if they stick with it and keep working together they can turn this around.”
Coach: Whitney Hanley (ninth season)
Record: 6-1, 0-0 MCAL
2009 record: 11-8, 7-2
Outlook: The 2009 Wildcats caught many by surprise, even their longtime coach. But the young team of only 16 players battled its way to a second-place finish in the MCAL last season. MC has since lost just two seniors while returning four, including returning team captains Ania Kurczko — the heart of the Wildcats defense who was named first-team all-MCAL in ’09 — and Sarah Kelly, who averages nearly three goals per game this season. Additionally, Hanley will look to leadership from senior captains Emily Cincebeaux, a second-team all-MCAL midfielder, and Katie Rooney, another midfielder, who transferred from St. Louis. With this viable combination of proven seniors, and a sampling of experienced freshmen, MC is looking to win an MCAL title and has hopes of returning to NCS, something they’ve done just once — in 2008.
The last word: “We have so many returning and experienced players,” Hanley said. “These captains are far superior to any other captains I’ve had. They’ve got us playing like a team, operating a balanced attack. e The goal scoring and assists have been well spread out and the girls are learning to play as a team.”
Coach: Kim Puliafico (first season)
Record: 0-1, 0-1 MCAL
2009 record: 2-8, 1-8
Outlook: A 2005 San Marin grad, and former Chico State lacrosse player, Puliafico takes over a Novato program with hopes of establishing the Hornets as contenders for years to come. Helping her this season will be defender Elinor Shaul and midfielder Lauren Liddle. Junior Yeonji Choi helps bolster the Hornets offense and Kelsy Hatfield will be a main force stabilizing the defense. Puliafico is also looking for big things from her promising left-handed middie, Sara Carlson.
The last word: “We have a few good leading players,” Puliafico said. “I hope that this season, the players can take on the role of building the program to a more serious level. We want to take the program and equal what the boys have. They have a great program, and I want to show (the team) that we can be a good program too.”
Coach: Justin Kurland (third season)
Record: 4-0, 1-0 MCAL
2009 record: 3-4, 3-6
Outlook: A young Mustangs team with only a pair of seniors has high hopes for 2010, but San Marin also realizes it needs a few breaks to go its way in order to sneak into postseason play. In order for that to happen, San Marin will lean heavily on junior Kelsey Diederick and senior Allison Koenig — both team captains — as the Mustangs look to rebound from a 3-6 mark last year. Goalie Sophia Mychajluk will also be paramount to the team’s success, as will an influx of talented freshmen, says Kurland.
The last word: “I still look at this season as a rebuilding year,” Kurland said. “I can tell you that we have the most amount of fun. I love wining but we enjoy playing, we go out there just to play and the girls just enjoy it.”
Coach: Eva Oliver (first season)
Record: 1-5, 0-0 MCAL
2009 record: 12-5, 6-4
Outlook: One of two MCAL entries from Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy relies on sophomore twins Allie and Katie Bryan, as Oliver takes over this private school program. Last year, Sonoma received consistent contributions from juniors Kate Detrick, Emma Ritcey, M.P. Greene, Katie Lamb and Julia Gurney, all of whom will be important elements to another successful campaign. No further information was available.
Coach: Christina Samala (second season)
Record: 1-2, 0-0 MCAL
2009 record: 8-7, 4-3
Outlook: Led by team captain Tara Salisbury, seniors Monica Milstein and the heart of the Red-tailed Hawks defense, Catie DeBendictis, Tam looks to be in the MCAL mix this season. However, regardless of the strong leadership it boasts, the Hawks’ season may hinge on the sticks of three newcomers to the sport, most notably junior Daniel Torne, who’s already shown an offensive deftness in the early going. And as the case with any lacrosse team, the Hawks will rely on strong play from their goalie Baylin Vreeland to keep them in games.
The last word: “We’ve got three new players without experience on the team that are playing huge and having fun, adjusting well,” Hawks assistant Natalie Butler said. “The older teammates are being great leaders and showing the girls the ropes, rather than bossing the younger ones around. e I think our team right now is just adjusting to having a few newer players on the team, and once we get a sense of each other and gel, we could be pretty good.”
Coach: Robin Harvey (first season)
Record: 1-5, 0-0 MCAL
2009 record: 6-14-2, 4-3
Outlook: A San Francisco entry into the MCAL normally boasts a fair amount of Marin talent. This year Harvey takes the reigns of the program after Mary Beth Noel took a leave of absence after giving birth. Harvey was not available for comment.
Coach: Matt Eaton (first season)
Current record: 1-4, 0-0 MCAL
2009 record: 2-8 (non-affiliated)
Outlook: With 33 players trying out for the team, Ursuline is hoping they can make some noise in its inaugural season as a part of the MCAL. The Bears, a Santa Rosa school, don’t have any players from Marin, and Eaton takes over a program that’s still relatively young.
The last word: “We are excited to start this year in the MCAL,” Ursuline athletic director Rich Herman said. “There is a strong crop of teams from Marin, and we think the competition will serve our program well.”
OUTSIDE THE MCAL
Coach: Amy Harms (fourth season)
2009 record: 15-2
Outlook: San Francisco’s St. Ignatius, an unaffiliated program, is perennially among the best in the state, and as is usually the case, this edition of the Wildcats has a strong Marin flavor to it. Mill Valley junior midfielder Heidi Halstad along with a pair of Tiburon sisters, senior attacker Sofia Robinson and sophomore Alexa, a defender, will head a strong crop of North Bay athletes looking to make an impact in San Francisco. Also hailing from Marin are midfielders Tess Mattimore (Tiburon), and Kaly Leonoudakis (Corte Madera) who should each play a vital role in the attack. First-year varsity players include midfielder Grace Buckingham (Ross), Erin Geraghty (Tiburon), and freshman Meg Wallace (Ross) will provide youth to a program that tends to re-load its collection of talent as opposed to rebuild.
The last word: “(In the past) we’ve been lucky to have some great success,” Harms said. “A good portion of our players and our starters are from Marin, and those athletes tend to have good ability, speed, and stick skills. e This year we’re pretty young, e I wouldn’t want to say our expectations are lessened, but in reality we want to compete, and get better everyday.”