Eastern Regional High School girls’ lacrosse head coach Katie Lee doesn’t remember a team quite like her 2016 squad.
This year, the Vikings will take the field without a single senior on the varsity roster.
There will be plenty of juniors and sophomores and maybe a few freshmen, but no players who will be walking at graduation in June.
Lee doesn’t see the lack of seniors as a bad thing for Eastern. She feels her underclassmen are very talented and will have no trouble competing in the Olympic Conference this year.
“There’s more positives than negatives with that because we return everyone next year,” Lee said.
With no seniors on this year’s team, Lee referred to her junior class as “seniors,” saying they will be looked upon to step up and be role models for the younger players on the team.
“I told the juniors on the first day of practice, ‘This is your lucky year,’” Lee said. “‘You’re probably the only senior class to have two senior seasons.’ They have two chances to do what they want.”
One junior, Brittany Geis, has already stepped up as a leader for Eastern. She was named a captain as a sophomore last year and will continue in that role this season.
“She’s very vocal,” Lee said about Geis. “She loves the game and she really shares that with girls.”
Geis said all of the returning varsity players plan to step up as leaders this season.
“I think we all have to play a role in stepping up,” Geis said. “It’s not just me individually, it’s us as a team.”
Geis is an anchor for Eastern’s defense, who will be returning a number of key players this year. The Vikings also return junior back Ashley Thomas and junior goalkeeper Cooper Cowdin.
Offense is a different story, as Eastern will be without its top three goalscorers from last season. Austyn Cuneo and Samantha Mlkvy both graduated, and junior Kaela Sierra will not play due to an injury.
Eastern’s top returning goalscorer his sophomore Savannah Slack, who tallied 30 goals and nine assists as a freshman in 2015.
“We’re looking for her to run the offense,” Lee said. “Having that year under her belt, she’s going to be stronger this year than she was last year.”
The Vikings will look for junior Alexis Pettisani to step up on offense. Pettisani scored 54 goals as a freshman in 2014, but missed most of last season due to a broken foot.
Even though this year’s Eastern team is very young, Lee said there hasn’t been any changes in how the team practices and plays. Expectations remain high, as Lee expects her team to be able to post another winning record this year after going 11–8 in 2015.
“So far, we’ve been pretty successful in the preseason having girls step up,” Lee said. “So we haven’t really changed anything.”
“I think we’re strong and we might end up making some mistakes, but that’s OK,” Lee added. “We’ll work those kinks out. Our focus is to be the best we can be come May, because that’s when it really matters.”