Replacing two of the top scorers in program history is never easy. The Slippery Rock women’s lacrosse team, led by head coach Emily Hopkins, will face this challenge in 2017.
Following last season, both Erin Wilcox (sixth all-time in career points) and Kaytlin Callaghan (second all-time in career points) graduated from Slippery Rock. Hopkins, however, isn’t looking for one individual to step up, but rather a collective group of people to step up.
“We have three senior and two juniors that have a lot of playing time and have a collective goal increase across the board,” Hopkins said.
Senior attackers Caitlynn Palladino and Chynna Chan are the returning points leaders from last season, scoring 22 and 21 points, respectively, in 2016. Attackers Ally Culhane and Jordan Chan will also be back for The Rock after each scoring double-digit points last year. Culhane, a junior, scored 18 points and Jordan, the sophomore sister of Chynna, scored 12 points. Junior Bre Vodde rounds out the returning double-digits scorers, having scored 11 points last year.
In the midfield are the Green and White’s return senior Jasey Sanders and sophomore Tia Torchia. Sanders played in all 17 games last season, scoring 20 points, and Torchia played in 11 games, scoring 11 points.
Defensively, The Rock is bringing back three seniors who all played in every game last season. Miranda Reininger, Brittany Brewer and Morgan McLaughlin will all be back for their final season.
With four-year starting goalie, Jordan Wagner, graduating last season, The Rock will be turning to junior transfer Emily Bitka and freshman Tori Greco to protect The Rock’s net this season. Coach Hopkins said both goalies have different styles, but will both have the possibility to fill the void in the cage.
“Emily is a right, Tori is a lefty, and they both play a little bit differently,” Hopkins said.
Bitka, a transfer from the University of Albany, added, “Being active in the net helps me a lot.”
The team’s biggest strength will be the depth. Although they are a younger team, Hopkins thinks everybody on the team has the potential to see the field.
“Once we get some experience, we have a lot of depth,” Hopkins said. She stated that the youth in the midfield will be a weakness. “We have a lot of talented midfield freshmen, but obviously adjusting to the level of play here and getting used to playing with each other are going to take some time.”
Reininger is trying to pass down the legacy that her prior teammates taught her to the freshmen on the team.
“I am trying to pass things off to the underclassmen that were reinforced to me when I was an newbie on the team,” Reininger said.
Reininger said the team goal is to make the playoffs, and Bitka added, “Winning the PSAC is probably the goal for a lot of people on this team.”
The women’s lacrosse team opens up the season March 8 against Seton Hill University at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium with the game starting at 4 p.m. The team then travels down to Florida for three games, and Hopkins and Reininger see the trip as a team-building trip.
“Spring break is huge time for the team,” Hopkins said. “They spend a lot of time together, and are tight-knit. They bond and hang out together, so its usually a pretty important part of the season.”
Reininger added about the trip, “We have the ability to stay in these really nice houses down in Florida, and the ability to play in 80-90 degree weather is a real treat for us, and getting to play against teams that you usually don’t get to play against is exciting.”