For the Pacific women’s lacrosse program, the trend always seems to be onward and upward, whether it is in the win/loss column, the caliber of play or in the quality of their opponents.
In 2013, Pacific took what was perhaps the most experienced team in the nine-year history of the program to a 9-4 overall record. Once again, the Boxers swept their rival programs from Northwest Conference schools and were ultra competitive against a number of high-caliber Division III programs from the Midwest and east coast. Of their four losses, three were decided by three goals or less.
The nine wins gave Pacific their fourth straight winning season, but making it a fifth will require some new players to step up and assume leadership roles. The Boxers lost seven seniors from the 2013 season, including four of the team’s six top scorers.
But Head Coach Wynne Lobel has no doubt that the new look Boxers are ready to go. “Our new group of players have come in with a great amount of experience,” she said. “I am psyched to see our first-year players come in, improve beyond the field and develop their game. We’re a different team this year and it’s so exciting.”
Much of the emphasis on the field will be to continue to play a fast-paced style of lacrosse, which has benefited the Boxers well in the scoring column. Pacific scored 185 goals in 2013 and the team’s average of 14.23 goals per game ranked 39th among all NCAA Division III teams.
“I am liking a lot of things. I like how we are playing attack and I like how smart we are on the field,” Lobel said. “I like how coachable we are, how we are communicating and how we play. This is a fun team to watch and coach.”
And when Lobel says everyone is playing, she means it. The Boxers have 17 players on the roster, the smallest team the Boxers have had in the last three years. That means that everyone will be a critical piece of the Boxers’ winning formula.
“It’s more collaborative this year,” Lobel said. “We are relying on experience, whether it is a first-year player of a fourth-year player. I think everyone is working together and are super-motivated to work with whomever is next to them, no matter what year they are.”
The Boxers will need good collaboration to play against what Lobel feels is Pacific’s toughest schedule yet. The ledger includes matchups with tough western programs from Pomona-Pitzer, Colorado College and Chapman and matchups with established Midwestern programs from Alma, Kenyon and Hope.
With the departure of four-year starter Brittney Hartmann, the Boxers have quite a hole to fill in front of the cage. Thankfully, Lobel has recruited an experienced goalkeeper in Adrienne Salzwadel (Fr., Beaverton, Ore.) that is ready to step in.
Salzwadel was a three-time All-Metro League selection as a goalie and earned first team honors as a junior. In her last two years, Salzwadel shared the cage with another player and is excited about the opportunity to hold the position down on her own.
“Adrienne has worked rally hard,” Lobel said. “She loves playing lacrosse. She loves playing goalie, communicating and learning new things. With not competing with anyone for spot, she is flourishing. She players better when she’s breathing and loose. We’re stoked to have her in goal.”
DEFENDERSWhen it comes to the defense, Pacific is incredible deep. Two returners anchor a group of six at the position, paired with more experience at the defensive midfield positions. The Boxers had one of the best defenses in the west in 2013. The Boxers were 50th among Division III teams in scoring defense, allowing 9.23 goals per game, and was ninth nationally with 12.08 caused turnovers per game.
Mahea Wong (So., Lake Stevens, Wash.) and Julie Mayhugh (Jr., Tigard, Ore.) return after solid defensive performances in 2013. Wong started 12 of the team’s 13 games and finished third for the Boxers with 19 caused turnovers. Mayhugh, who spent the fall studying abroad in Ireland, is expected to see an enhanced role after playing in eight games in her sophomore campaign.
“Mahea is spirited, love the play and came into the season quite fit,” Lobel said. “Julie is tough, smart and leady to lead us defensively.”
Claire Carpenter (Jr., Escondido, Calif.) showed great growth in her first season playing the game and will also see an enhanced role. Carpenter played in nine games with three starts and is helped with her lanky 5-foot-9 height.
Jenelle Taylor (Jr., Pendleton, Ore.) stands to see a lot of playing time thanks in part to her 6-foot-1 frame. A newcomer to the sport, Taylor is returning to athletics after not playing any sport in two years at Blue Mountain CC. She was a three-sport athlete in high school in soccer, bowling and track and field.
“Jenelle is still learning the game but she is showing great promise,” Lobel said. “I am hoping that she will play the field quite a bit.”
Meg Chapman (Fr., Woodinville, Wash.) brings a great level of experience as a newcomer to the program. Chapman earned all-state honors in her final three prep seasons, was named an All-American in 2013 as a senior and played two times on Washington state select squads.
“Meg is super skilled and a smart player,” Lobel said. “She has a lot of lacrosse wisdom on the field and thinks quickly. She is fun to watch.”
Malynda Taylor (Fr., Portland, Ore.) returns to the game after two years away, but brings some athletic skill that will be beneficial for the Boxers. “She is a pleasant surprise,” Lobel said. “She confident, has a good head on her shoulders and is a calming presence.”
Brittany Bardin (Fr., Albany, Ore.) is also a newcomer to the sport, but will be expected to see playing time at defender. Lobel characterizes Bardin as a scrappy, athletic player who has learned the game quickly.
MIDFIELDERSMuch of Pacific’s experience returns in the midfield positions where four players have at least one year of collegiate experience. Amy Mayhugh (Jr., Tigard, Ore.) is the top returning scorer for the Boxers after she finished second for the team with 33 goals. The versatile attacking midfielder finished with a team-high 13 free-position goals.
“Amy is an incredibly hard worker,” Lobel said. “She changes the pace of the game for us. She likes to play the game faster.”
Melanie Niehus (Jr., Colorado Springs, Colo.) finished fifth for the Boxers with 19 goals. As talented defensively as she is offensively, Niehus was second for the team with 20 caused turnovers and third with 32 ground balls. “Melanie is smart and makes things happen,” Lobel said. “She is a great leader for us in that she is quiet, hard working and gets the job done. She works hard for the benefit of the team.”
Kacey Killingbeck (Sr., Nampa, Idaho) will once again be a depended upon member of the defensive midfield. She played in 10 games last year and had six caused turnovers. Nicki Leeming (So., Las Vegas, Nev.) will also see an enhanced role after playing in all 13 games at midfield with 12 ground balls.
Paisley Hiefield (Fr., Portland, Ore.) brings a solid level of experience for the Boxers as the lone newcomer in the midfield. Hiefield played two seasons of high school lacrosse and will use her small 5-foot-4 frame to her advantage.
Pacific lost its most experience at attack, but fills the void with some talented newcomers that should provide steady scoring.
Kara Smouse (So., Portland, Ore.) is the Boxers’ only returner at attack and stands ready to step in at low attack. Smouse played in all 13 games and started five, finishing the year with eight goals. “She is very good with her stick and is constantly observing,” Lobel said.
Abby Talboy (Fr., Boise, Idaho) joins the program for the first time following the basketball season. Lobel said she will benefit the Boxers with her ability to move quickly off the ball and her prowess in gaining possessions.
Both April Lanz (Fr., Oregon City, Ore.) and Sarah Steele (Fr., Mission Viejo, Calif.) join the program with solid high school credentials. Lanz was an all-state selection at Oregon City High School and was a four-sport athlete. “April is extremely smart, extremely intelligent and likes the physicality of the game,” Lobel said. “Who knows what kinds of things we will see on the field because she learns so quickly.”
Steele was a three-time all-league selection as a defender and finished her senior season as an All-American scholar through U.S. Lacrosse. “She is like a Tasmanian devil,” Lobel said. “She is fast and unpredictable, yet she is smart on and off the field.”