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Bearcats look to build off of inaugural season of competition

In its inaugural season a year ago, the Binghamton women’s lacrosse team dealt with making a drastic move from a club sport to a Division I varsity squad in the competitive America East Conference. It would be a big jump in any situation, but without an initial year of recruiting, the challenges facing the Bearcats were even steeper. With the learning experiences of last season in the past, head coach Susan Frost is looking forward to bringing the program to the next level.

“We didn’t always know what to expect last season,” Frost said. “It’s part of the growing path. We will be more competitive this season and will play with the same heart and determination. We are teaching our athletes how to win at this level, and that is something that is mental as well as physical.”

Binghamton returns 14 letterwinners and 11 of its starters from last season, and will get immediate contributions from a talented group of eight newcomers.

“Our incoming class is highly skilled and they will be an effective complement to the more experienced players we return from last season,” Frost said.

Combination of veterans and newcomers will boost play at midfield

Sophomore Erin Smith, who was fourth on the team with four goals last season, will anchor play in the midfield, where she will be joined by classmate Lisa Picco. The pair, at 5-foot-9 and 6-feet, respectively, will lead Binghamton’s transition offense.

Among the newcomers who will see significant time at midfield are Kelli Bennett, Kathy Van Voorhis and Lauren Wetherell.

“Our play at midfield is definitely going to be more consistent this season,” Frost said. “We have a talented group of players whose abilities should mix well together on the field.”

Scoring could come from strong group of attackers

Sophomore Laura Gabbamonte will join freshmen Allison Lak and Kristen Disch at the attack position, and all three could be among Binghamton’s top scorers. Gabbamonte was the team’s fourth-leading scorer with six points last season and Disch comes from a traditionally very strong high school program at Yorktown HS (Yorktown, N.Y.).

“Laura’s tremendous improvement from the beginning of practice in the fall is a real tribute to her character and work ethic,” Frost said. “As a group, we think that all of our attackers are capable of stepping up and making strong contributions. During practice our players have done a good job of being in the right place at the right time, and that will help us in our offensive sets.”

Juniors Ashley Cincotta and Clodagh Harte will also return to the attack position. Cincotta was the team’s top scorer a year ago, netting 10 goals and passing off five assists. Harte is one of the team’s most versatile players and should see time at many positions this season.

“Having Ashley and Clodagh in the lineup will give us consistency in our attack,” Frost said. “We are still a very young team. Our goal is to stick to our game plan throughout each game and the stability that Ashley and Clodagh provide will be an important factor in accomplishing that.”

Defense shows improvement from last season

The top defensive unit appears to be set with junior co-captain Gina Romanelli at the point, senior Keri Fagan at the coverpoint, and sophomore Erin Wall at the third man.

“Our defense is better off than last season,” Frost said. “We have a long way to go, but there is definitely a measurable improvement from last season. Gina is a very smart player on the field and Erin is willing to do whatever it takes to make it work.”

Junior Danielle DeLuca and freshman Sara Dorfman will also compete for time on the defensive unit.

“Danielle has shown a lot of improvement from last season and will be one of our first backups at defense,” Frost said.

Battle for playing time shaping up in goal

Junior Danielle Zittel will likely see significant time in the net this season after being a starting midfielder last season. Zittel has trained as a goalie in practice and seems ready to step into a starting role for the beginning of the season.

“Danielle has absolutely no fear,” Frost said. “She is an amazing athlete who has picked up her game in a big way. As she gets more confidence as a goalie, there will be great things to come for her.”

Junior Allison Steinberg saw the majority of time in the net last season and will continue to battle for playing time this season. Last year Steinberg started all but three games for the Bearcats. She had at least 10 saves on seven occasions and averaged nearly 11 saves per game. In the Bearcats win over St. Francis on April 20, Steinberg was at her best, allowing a season-low nine goals while matching her season high with 14 saves.

Binghamton will once again face a daunting schedule

The America East slate of games again looks to provide a tough challenge for Binghamton. The two top teams from a year ago, New Hampshire and Boston University, consistently push for a spot in the national rankings. Vermont and Albany are also improved from last season and the league gets a sixth team with the addition of a new program at Stony Brook.

“We expect to see New Hampshire and Boston at the top of the league again this season,” Frost said. “Vermont is strong once again and we know that Albany will be much improved.”

The Bearcats will play three of their conference games at home, hosting Vermont, New Hampshire and Albany, while traveling to Stony Brook and Boston University.

The highlight of the non-conference schedule will be a matchup at home against St. Mary’s (Calif.) on April 15. The Gaels are a strong program from the Mountain Pacific Lacrosse League and will be one of the more talented teams Binghamton will see this season.

“St. Mary’s will be a tough matchup for us,” Frost said. “We are excited about the opportunity to play a team that is a step above us.”

The Bearcats open the season at home on March 18 with a game against St. Francis (Pa.). The other non-conference home games are against Niagara and Quinnipiac. Binghamton will play non-conference road games against Siena, Le Moyne, Central Connecticut and St. Bonaventure.

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