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Women’s Lacrosse’s Veteran Leadership Embraces Change
Bearcats open season at St. Francis (Pa.) today at noon
February 22, 2013Tweet
Contact: Terrence Lollie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
VESTAL, N.Y. - New head coach – known commodity. Stephanie Allen was handed the keys to the Binghamton women’s lacrosse program less than a month ago following the resignation of five-year head coach Tony Zostant. A coach who brought Allen on as his first hire when arriving at Binghamton in the fall of 2007.
Since that time Allen has been honing her abilities as a coach after grooming a South Carolina program from the club level to the NCAA’s highest echelon of competition. Her job now is to ease the transition for her 23 student-athletes and in her own words, “turn the corner as a program.”
Allen will not be lacking a wealth of experience and leadership, with a roster boasting 15 returning letterwinners, eight of which are seniors. The first-year interim head coach assisted in the recruiting of all eight of those seniors, Binghamton’s largest senior class since the program began in 2002. Allen will lean heavily upon her senior leadership with the entire group occupying starting roles for the Bearcats.
“What is special about this group is their leadership,” Allen continued. “It’s been great to see them develop over the years and bring an unparalleled passion to the game. They know the game, they have the experience and I can’t wait to see them succeed.”
With a fresh start and a new voice the 2013 edition of the Bearcats are looking to make program history and earn their first-ever berth in the America East Championship in May. Aided by the absence of five-time conference champion Boston University from postseason competition, Allen’s group believes they are ready to breakthrough and zero in on one of the four playoff spots.
“Our goal this year is to make a significant change in the culture of the program,” Allen continued. “Our seniors want to end their careers knowing the program has advanced. It would be outstanding to send them (seniors) off with their first playoff appearance.”
50-POINT SCORER MCGEEVER HEADLINES ATTACK LINE
Despite the loss of Lis Zuern, the school’s second all-time point scorer and one of two 50-point scorers in 2012, Binghamton returns field general Kimberly McGeever, the other 50-point scorer. The frontline duo combined for 107 of the Bearcats’ 235 points in 2012, the highest total by any pair of teammates in BU’s Division I history.
“Having Kim back to direct our offense is very big for us,” Allen said. “She really helps calm us down and reminds us to be patient in our sets. We do need to become better shooters however, and we are working diligently every day at that aspect of the game.”
McGeever is coming off a career-year where she broke the program’s single-season assists record (33) and became just the third 50-point (23 goals, 33 assists) scorer in school history. The senior captain will have her hands full in her final season however, ushering in two new line mates.
Joining McGeever on the attack line are newcomers Angela Vespa and Sophie Racciatti. Vespa, a junior-transfer from Onondaga Community College, is a year removed from a NJCAA National Championship and first-team All-American honors after leading the nation in assists (17). Racciatti, a 5-foot-10 freshman, has an innate sense to finish around the cage following a career where she netted 117 goals at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse.
“Angela has made a huge impact during our practices and during fall ball,” Allen noted. “Sophie knows how to score the ball and has been a real force out there during some of our scrimmages. She is a tall, solid attacker that has a very unique style of play that is hard to stop.”
MIDFIELD HIGHLIGTHED BY SENIOR PRESENCE
A trio of seniors, who produced 70 goals last season, returns with intentions of inflicting more damage to the scoreboard in 2013. Katherine Hunsberger, Kristen Stone and Casey Bulman represent three-fourths of Binghamton’s midfield line and will be asked to produce similar results.
“We return a great group at the midfield position and they will be relied upon to carry us at moments,” Allen said. “From Katherine to Casey to Alex Fisher, we will need the entire group to step up.”
Hunsberger, who had a breakout season in 2012, netted 34 goals and secured a program record 51 draw controls in her first season as a full-time starter. An America East All-Academic selection, Hunsberger also led the Bearcats in caused turnovers (17) and was second on the team with 26 ground balls.
Stone, another weapon for Allen at the midfield position, found the back of the net 25 times in 2012. The four-year player from Clarence Center, N.Y. set the school’s single game record for goals with 7 in Binghamton’s double-overtime win at Marist last March. Stone also has the ability to create havoc on defense picking up 25 ground balls and causing 14 turnovers. Her 30 draw controls was second on the team.
“Kristen has been a staple for us the past few years,” Allen noted. “She is a workhorse both offensively and defensively and we will need her on both ends of the field to be successful.”
Rounding out the group of seniors at midfield is Bulman, a local Vestal graduate. Bulman produced 11 goals, 18 ground balls and caused 16 turnovers, the second highest total on the team, last season. Providing quality depth at midfield will be sophomore Renee Kiviat and freshman Allie Rodgers. Kiviat earned America East All-Rookie honors after scoring nine goals while picking up 15 ground balls and 32 draw controls. Rodgers looks to make an immediate impact for BU after netting a school record 252 goals in her career at Baldwin High School.
“Allie is small in stature but has a lot of heart and brings it every day on the field,” Allen commented. “She is fun to watch and has some of the quickest moves out there. She has a ton of potential.”
CAPTAIN PENNINO SPEARHEADS VETERAN DEFENSE
After allowing a conference-high 223 goals in 2012, the Binghamton defense will seek to cut down that number significantly. Kristin Pennino, a three-year starter on the backline, will utilize her 5-foot-10 frame to disrupt attackers. Last year she picked up 14 ground balls while starting all 16 games for the Bearcats.
“We are the most experienced on our backline,” Allen stated. “With the seniors back there directing traffic, we will be in good hands. Kristin has been on the backline the past three seasons and is well-versed in our defense.”
Lena Amalfitano, who played midfield the past two seasons, is being moved back to the defense to provide added agility to the position. The senior has started 28 games since transferring from Louisville prior to the 2011 season, corralling 18 ground balls and causing nine turnovers last season from her midfield position.
“Lena is one of the toughest 1-v-1 defenders we have and possesses a tenacity that cannot be matched,” Allen proclaimed. “She is an absolute ground ball machine.”
Isabelle Mahoney is another long defender for the Bearcats, as the 6-foot-0 defender begins her second season as a full time starter. In 2012, Mahoney grabbed 11 ground balls and caused five turnovers. Junior Erica Foley and sophomore Rachel Antelmi will supply Allen with depth on the backline.
PAFUMI AND MCNULTY BATTLE FOR TIME IN CAGE
After two seasons of playing with just one goalie, Allen finally has depth at arguably the most crucial position on the field. Last year, sophomore Kara Pafumi played all 16 games for the Bearcats in cage racking up a league-high 970 minutes - knowing there was no backup. This season, Allen brought in reinforcements to help bolster the defense, by way of freshman goalie Erin McNulty.
“Having depth at the goalie position this year is going to make a world of difference for us,” Allen said. “They are creating great competition for each other and pushing one another on the field every day.”
McNulty is the highest rated recruit of the Binghamton women’s lacrosse era, becoming the Bearcats’ first top-50 recruit. She was ranked the No. 4 goalie and No. 37 player overall by ESPN.com following a standout junior season. The 5-foot-7 goalie played for Sachem North on Long Island and will provide plenty of competition for Pafumi.
“Erin brings a different style of play to the mix and the two are very different in their abilities,” Allen said. “We are going to have a tough time making a decision. Erin has brought a very active role and presence to our defense. When she is in cage she isn’t afraid to play a little defense and pick off passes or grab ground balls.”
In Pafumi’s freshman campaign, she stopped 131 shots which was the second highest total in the conference. The sophomore showed resiliency between the pipes playing every minute of every game in 2012. Pafumi and McNulty will battle for the starting position and could share time as the season progresses.
“Kara brings a wealth of experience and has all the freshman jitters out,” Allen said. “She is a crafty veteran and will compete for the position.”
BALANCED SCHEDULE FEATURES SEVEN HOME AND ROAD CONTESTS
Binghamton opens the season on the road at St. Francis in Loretto, Pa. on Feb. 24, but returns home for its next three contests. The three-game homestand features a pair Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) members, Canisius (March 2) and Marist (March 6). The Bearcats knocked off both team for back-to-back wins last March. Canisius is the defending MAAC Champion.
The Bearcats then begin a three-game-in-ten-day stretch two of which are on the road. Binghamton continues its series with Connecticut on March 16 before returning home to welcome Siena to the Bearcats Sports Complex on March 20. BU plays its last non-conference game before America East play at Colgate on March 26.
On March 30 Binghamton opens conference play at home against Vermont then travels to Baltimore to face UMBC (April 3). The Bearcats host New Hampshire (April 6) before heading to Boston to take on the defending America East regular season champions.
Binghamton’s final three games present the toughest stretch of its schedule, facing two opponents ranked in the InsideLacrosse.com preseason poll. On April 20 Binghamton hosts defending America East champion Albany, who was ranked 20th in the poll. Then the Bearcats take a break from conference action to play at Cornell, who spent much of last season ranked. Binghamton closes the season at a revamped Stony Brook program that entered the preseason ranked 18th and boasts preseason All-American Claire Petersen.
“Our non-conference schedule will leave us well prepared for America East play,” Allen concluded. “We had a few tight games that we are looking to change the outcome this year. Conference is going to be a tough stretch with Albany, Boston and now Stony Brook. But we’re looking forward to the challenge and working cohesively towards the same goal and hoping to make a statement.”