Image courtesy of Catholicathletics.com
By Jared Prenda
CUA’s women’s lacrosse team is on the top of everyone’s radar this coming spring season. The team was ranked as the number one in the Landmark Conference preseason poll, taking a unanimous 60 points for the top spot.
The Lady Cards are sitting as the tenth-ranked team in Division III according to the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) poll. This position is exactly where Catholic ended last year as it made a run to the semifinals of the regional NCAA tournament last season before losing to #12 Amherst College. The team boasted a 17-5 (7-0 Landmark) record and all 5 losses came against opponents ranked #12 in the country or better.
This comes as no surprise since the team is embarking on a campaign to win its seventh straight Landmark Conference title. The team has a 38-0 record against conference opponents, last losing a game to Susquehanna 15-10 in the 2013 season. Susquehanna was ranked eleventh in the country in the IWLCA poll at the time of the defeat and was the Cardinals’ only loss in the conference that season.
Senior defender Gianna Beckmeyer missed most of last season due to injury but will be part of a crucial backline for the Cards this spring. There are plenty of expectations and a legacy to uphold for this team but the players are always keeping their eyes forward.
“We don’t ever want to be that team that loses that streak. So we look after each other, we make sure each individual is always improving, and we give each other the confidence to keep going and do the best she can,” Beckmeyer said. “I think the focus on the team as a whole and saying to myself ‘this is not only for me but for my team’ is what motivates me to never let up.”
The team has no reason to expect anything less than the success of years’ past with a strong senior presence in all aspects of the field. The team’s offense is spearheaded by senior midfielder Ally Criscuolo. The Southampton, New Jersey native registered 51 goals and 15 assists last season, with an 89.5 shots on goal percentage. She was second on the team last year in goals, tied for the lead in points, and was fourth in assists last season. The only higher goal scorer last season was attacker Jess Lyons who graduated with the class of 2019. Joined in midfield with Criscuolo is junior Anna Maupin who tallied 41 goals and 12 assists last season.
The team has no intention of resting on its laurels. Criscuolo emphasizes that this is the final chapter in her story at Catholic and wants it to be a memorable one.
“Once you work your way to the top, you must work twice as hard to stay there. I believe the women’s lacrosse team this year has the potential to do amazing things,” Criscuolo said. “The senior grade, including myself, wants to create a lasting impression that shows just how we’ve worked to be where we are today.”
The team will be equally deep on the defensive side of things, as senior Nanci Hernandez will be returning between the pipes. The San Diego, California native registered over 140 saves last season and held a 15-5 record. In front of Hernandez is senior Allysa Bishop who was second for defenders last year in groundballs controlled with 32.
Criscuolo also understands that the legacy of this team is carrying on the dominance that it has worked so hard to build. The team understands that it must work together to not only succeed this season but in the future as well.
“After losing some very talented and skilled seniors last year, the senior grade knew that we had to step up. We do have a lot of depth on our team and have many players that can make a huge impact this year,” Criscuolo said. “As a senior this year, I know it is my job to integrate the freshman and show them what it is like to be on a high ranked, competitive lacrosse team.”
Catholic’s season opener against #3 Salisbury was rescheduled for April 20th. The team instead opened its season against St. Mary’s (Md.) for the annual “Play Like Jamie” game on Wednesday, February 26. The Cardinals won the tilt 8-6 with Maupin leading the team with 5 points and Criscuolo scoring on her only shot of the night. CUA plays its home opener on Saturday, February 29 against Rowan University at noon at Carlini Field.