WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — The 2014 version of Williams College women's lacrosse may resemble the Traveling Wilburys when it comes to scheduling, but the Ephs hope to negate that nomadic feeling with chemistry that would make Linus Pauling blush.
Due to the Weston Field renovation, the women's lacrosse team will open its season by playing "home games" at UMass-Amherst, Springfield College and Smith College. But because of a crazy practice schedule which has sent them to Troy, Canaan, and Hoosick Falls, N.Y., the Ephs are already used to life on the road.
"We've had a lot of challenges already," head coach Chris Mason, back for her 29th year, said. "I think the team is taking it in good spirits and it's helping us to bond quicker than usual. They are a very determined, hard-working group, and I think they're ready to hit the ground running."
The good news for Mason is the return of six out of the eight top scorers from a club which finished 8-7 in 2013, but only 3-7 in conference play. Her goalie, senior tri-captain Ali Piltch, is a third-year starter, and her defense returns several experienced veterans, including senior tri-captain Lacey Hankin, senior Grace Wilson, junior Emily Gerber and sophomore Molly Belk.
Up at attack, senior tri-captain Rebecca McGovern is back after leading the Ephs in goals (21) and points (33) last season. Junior Bridget Malicki is also back at attack, she tied McGovern with 33 points (17 goals, 16 assists). Others expected to see time at attack include senior Maggie MacCallum, senior Stephanie Gallo, juniors Nancy Palmer (17 g., 4 a., 21 pts.), Hilary Cook (13 g., 2a., 15 pts.), Rebecca Bell (12 g., 2a., 14 pts.) and Maeve Mulholland, sophomores Alyssa Maddalone, Micaela Dussell and Haley Mahar, and first-year Brett Bidstrup.
Mason said a number of those players, such as McGovern and Bell for example, could also start in the midfield, where they did in 2013.
"We have a lot of versatility," she noted. "We have a lot of people up on attack, but we also have a lot of people who can play midfield or defense. It will be interesting to see how it plays out."
One person set in stone is Piltch in goal. She'll start for the third straight year after posting a 9.26 goals against average in '13 and a 47 percent save percentage. She played over 800 minutes in goal while making 124 saves in 14 starts.
"Ali's been improving every year," Mason said. "She's a hard worker and works very well with our defense.
Working hard on defense or in the midfield will be senior Courtney McLaughlin, juniors Alyssa Amos and Mahaney Sippel, sophomores Anne Rehfuss, Julia Diaz, and Natalie Gill. A first-year crop hoping to bolster the Ephs includes the aforementioned Bidstrup, Malread Toms (MF), Jenna Chodos (MF), and Jocelyn Wexler (D).
"We've been working real hard on winning the ball back in our offensive end," Mason said. "I've been impressed with how hard we're working on minimizing our turnovers and using the proper passing lanes to do that. We have a ton of talent and a lot of depth, so I'm hopeful."
The Ephs open the season Saturday, March 1, on the campus of UMass-Amherst, playing a "home game" with conference rival Bowdoin beginning at 12 p.m. in McGuirk Stadium.