The Binghamton women's lacrosse team opens the 2008 season at William and Mary on Sunday, February 17 in Williamsburg, Va.

On August 7, 2007, a new chapter in Binghamton women's lacrosse history was ushered in as veteran head coach Tony Zostant was tabbed to take over the Bearcat lacrosse program.

Zostant is a two-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year recipient (2002, 2003) and comes to Binghamton with a 129-66 (.661) career coaching record and the 14th best winning percentage among all active head coaches.

He spent the last six seasons at the helm of the St. Bonaventure lacrosse program, a span in which he led the Bonnies to a 61-37 record, including four seasons of 10 or more wins. Under Zostant's watch, St. Bonaventure ranked in the top five in the nation in goals per game in each of the last three seasons. In 2006, Zostant led the Bonnies to a 12-0 start, resulting in the program's first-ever national ranking.

At Binghamton, he takes over one of the youngest programs in the America East, with 16 underclassmen on board for 2008, but with a seasoned group of senior and junior leaders and a promising cast of newcomers, Zostant and the Bearcats are determined to have a successful season.

"Our expectations are high," Zostant said. "We are more athletic than we've been here before. The girls are excited, they are hungry to be successful and we all believe those expectations can be met."

The key to meeting these newfound expectations will depend on how well the team embraces an entirely new system and, according to its first-year head coach, a whole new culture of lacrosse.

"This is an entirely new system from what the girls are accustomed to," Zostant said. "We have had a lot of work to do in a short period of a time, but I think we are starting to foster the trust necessary for us to be successful. A great deal of the focus thus far has been on maintaining possession. If we can do a better job possessing the ball, I think a lot will fall into place from there."

Zostant's vision for the Bearcat program is built on a foundation of what he termed the 3 C's: confidence, communication, and competitiveness.

"Racking up a lot of wins is always nice," Zostant said. "But above all, the goal for this team is to compete and be competitive in every game we play in. It all starts with confidence."

Leading the list of returnees are Leanne Musso (Auburn, N.Y.), Kelsey Pieper (Rensselaer, N.Y.), and Kara Slowik (Warners, N.Y.) - all whom which will wear the "C" for the Bearcats this season.

"Our three captains bring great leadership to the team," Zostant said. "They have earned the respect from our team and staff with their work ethic and I believe they will provide our program with a very solid foundation."

Musso, a senior midfielder and an America East All-Rookie selection in 2005, leads the experienced group. She has battled through nagging injuries over the last two seasons and still managed to lead the team with 19 goals last season as well as tie for the team-high in points with 24.

"Leanne is the consummate team player. She will do whatever it takes to be successful," Zostant said. "We know we can count on her to get the job done because she's always going to give you 100-percent on the field."

Pieper, a junior midfield/defender, led the team in draw controls last season and finished ranked 24th in the nation with 2.8 per game.

"Kelsey is a great person and someone I think the younger kids just naturally gravitate towards," Zostant said. "She has a great competitive drive and will be an important utility player for us, who we will look for contributions from on both ends of the field."

Slowik, a junior defender and a two-time captain, will be expected to lead the Bearcat backline. Last season, she forced a team-high 19 turnovers and led Binghamton in ground balls with 2.9 per game - the 18th best mark in the nation.

"Kara is an extremely aggressive player," Zostant said. "She has great speed and will be counted on to help with clears and aid in the team's transition game."

Junior Julia Demuth (Jordan, N.Y.) is the team's second leading returning scorer. An athletic midfielder, she started every game last season, finishing with 13 goals and 20 total points.

Sophomores Sammy Jo Kanekuni (Frederick, Md.) and Erika Travis (Geneva, N.Y.) and junior Shannon Frawley (Pearl River, N.Y.) highlight the remaining cast of BU returnees.

Kanekuni started all 15 games for the Bearcats last season, Travis is coming off a 12-goal effort as a freshman in 2007, while Frawley played in every game and finished second on the team in turnovers caused and third in ground balls.

Rounding out the group, senior Kristen Marsjanik (Webster, N.Y.), juniors Kim Delperuto (Syracuse, N.Y.), as well as sophomores Lindsay Feller (Mahopac, N.Y.), Tracy Weinstein (East Islip, N.Y.), and Lizzie Wright (Massapequa, N.Y.), all are expected to contribute for BU.

With 12 talented newcomers, including 11 freshmen, youth is the name of the game for this year's Bearcat squad. Even though they have yet to suit up for their first collegiate action, Coach Zostant is confident his skilled contingent of first-year players will make immediate contributions on the field.

"I expect the freshmen to be a big part of our team this season," Zostant said. "They all are coming in with strong lacrosse backgrounds. They have a lot of speed which will allow us to play a fast, more up-tempo style.

Freshmen Jen Fischer (Yorktown, N.Y.) and Beth Moore (Hauppauge, N.Y.) highlight the incoming class at midfield. A defensive wing, Fischer was an all-league and all-section honoree on a Yorktown HS team that captured the 2006 NYS Class 'A' Section Championship. Moore was a three-time All-Suffolk County midfielder while at Hauppauge HS on Long Island.

Classmates Kate Concialdi (Yorktown, N.Y.) and Siobhan Menz (Webster, N.Y.) will also both have roles at the midfield, chipping in on both the offensive and defensive ends.

Up front, the Bearcats have put in an entirely new offensive scheme. BU will rely on a more tactical offensive approach, but when the opportunity presents itself, it will look to push the ball up the field and fastbreak.

Freshmen Lisa Illig (Corning, N.Y.), Kate Tesi (Yorktown, N.Y.), Ali Castiglie (Middle Island, N.Y.), and Erica Hill (Delmar, N.Y.) will be looked at to contribute at the attack position.

On the defensive end, the Bearcats sport a young, but aggressive unit that will aim to limit one-on-one opportunities at the cage.

Sophomore transfer Christina Smith (Somers, N.Y.) and freshmen Kirstie Caesar (Delmar, N.Y.) and Meagan Jean (Tully, N.Y.) will bolster a unit led by junior tri-captain Kara Slowik.

Senior Sandra Alvarez (Port Washington, N.Y.) has started 25 of 32 games in the cage for BU over the last two seasons, after walking onto the team as a sophomore. Alvarez, along with newcomer Lauren Scott (Jarrettsville, Md.) both figure to become vital contributors to the position in 2008.

Following its season opener against the Tribe, the Bearcats will return to Binghamton to host the first of seven home contests to be played at the new Bearcats Sports Complex, against Patriot League opponent Colgate on February 22.

The state-of-the-art facility includes a pair of Sportexe synthetic turf fields, one for games and one designed for practices. The opportunity to play on turf every day has been a welcome addition to Bearcat lacrosse program.

"The girls love the new field. It has done wonders for the preseason training and conditioning," Zostant said. "We can't wait to get out there and play in front of the home crowd."

Besides the turf, the stadium's new lighting will allow lacrosse to play night games for the first time. The Bearcats will host Siena on March 12 in the first of three night games to be played at the BSC.

Binghamton opens the America East portion of its schedule when the Bearcats host UMBC on February 29. The Bearcats will also host conference games against Boston University and Stony Brook, while traveling to New Hampshire, Albany, and Vermont.

Other non-conference opponents are set to include Big East power Syracuse University, the MAAC's Canisius, LeMoyne, Niagara, and Siena, as well as Northeast Conference opponents Monmouth and Wagner College.

"We have put together a competitive schedule for the spring. I am anxious to get things underway and am looking forward to our opener at William and Mary," Zostant said. "There will be some adjustments to the new system, but we will be hungry and I expect we will sneak up on some people early in the season."

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