By Natalie Fiorilli | The Duquesne Duke
With the 2016 women’s lacrosse season set to open this Sunday afternoon, there is only one expectation circling the locker room: win the Atlantic 10 tournament.
In fact, the Dukes were picked to finish third in the conference by an A-10 coach’s poll, which was not a surprise for head coach Mike Scerbo.
“We have made the A-10 tournament five straight years and we expect nothing less than making it six,” Scerbo said. “We return an All-Conference goalkeeper and an All-Conference attacker. We expect to do well in our conference this year.”
Last year, the Red & Blue went 9-9 overall and finished the season at 5-3 in A-10 play, led by senior midfielder Meredith Micho and senior goalie Jenna Bishop. Bishop was named All Conference goalie alongside junior Kaelin Shaw, the All Conference attacker. Junior midfielder Tess Drotar will also play an integral role on the team, having scored the third most goals last season with 24.
The Dukes aren’t simply led by upperclassmen though. Current sophomores Jill Vacanti, an attacker, and forward Kenna Gubler made the 2015 A-10 All-Rookie team. Vacanti led the Duquesne freshman with 20 goals.
Vacanti hopes to contribute to the team this season by being an offensive leader.
“Not just in calling plays, but hopefully putting points on the board to get our team to where we want to be,” Vacanti said. “I’m also hoping to improve my mental game. It really can make or break the way I play.”
Another factor to play into Duquesne’s success is youth. The Red & Blue are tasked with developing 10 freshman players this season.
These new players will add some depth to the Dukes – a team that has already shown depth in seasons past with the majority of the rookies being four-year starters and letter winners at the high school level.
Scerbo expects the freshmen to help the Red & Blue improve its ability while controlling the ball, while also enhancing its play-making strategies.
“Our style will be slightly different this year,” Scerbo said. “Our new kids are providing a great deal to our team this year. It has been a few years since we have had a freshman class have such a strong presence within our team.”
Despite its relatively young team, Duquesne has high-expectations for the season, which begins this Sunday on Rooney Field at 12 p.m. against Louisville.
With only one returning defender for the Dukes, the team will look to Bishop for guidance. Bishop will be one of only five seniors on the team, and will be the starting goaltender for the Red & Blue.
“I want to be there for our defense and talk to them constantly, especially since they are new,” Bishop said. “My expectation for this season is to make it to A-10’s. As long as I am on my game and defense is on their game we will do great.”
The Dukes will host the 2016 A-10 Tournament on Rooney Field, and after being picked to finish third, the Red & Blue should be contending for a top finish in post-season play.