WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Chris Mason and her 2016 Williams College women's lacrosse team are taking a balanced approach to the campaign, which will begin Saturday at 12 p.m. at home on Farley-Lamb Field against No. 2-ranked Trinity (Ct.) College.
Five seniors will lead the Ephs, including quad-captains Molly Belk, Micaela Dussel, Natalie Gilland Anne Rehfuss. Mason, back for her 32nd year at the helm of the Ephs and just six wins away from 300 in her career, said it's just a coincidence that a team searching for a balance has its four captains spread around the field.
Belk will be the key cog of a defensive unit that will include at least three sophomores. Gill and Rehfuss will control things in the midfield, and Dussel will spearhead the Williams' offense from the attack position.
The fifth and final senior will be attack Alyssa Maddalone, who scored one goal during 2015's 7-8 campaign and who Mason described as "a very good shooter." Rehfuss and Gill are the two top scorers returning from 2015. Rehfuss had 7 goals and 15 assists for 22 points while Gill scored 21 goals for 21 points.
"They will be really key players for us," Mason said of her senior class. "Natalie and Anne will control our midfield, Molly will set the tone in the back and Micaela and Alyssa will be critical to our attack. They have already delivered by providing great leadership in the offseason and making sure everyone is on the same page."
The Ephs' junior and sophomore classes are full of talent. Mairead Toms will join Belk in the defensive back, while Jenna Chodos will play more of a super utility role, quite possibly playing all three positions at one point. Katie Gallop and Brett Bidstrup hope to add a scoring touch in the attack.
Sophomores Kate Pattison and Jenny Roach are both expected to see a lot of time on defense, as will Kat Fearey, who played in 10 games last season. Eleanor Lustig will swing between midfielder and attack, while Caroline Hogan and Olivia Polk will see time at attack. Isha Singh will add depth to the midfield.
"We have a lot of very skilled kids," Mason said. "It's also one of the more hardworking groups I've had, they have great potential, I'm very excited to see how this team progresses and improves."
The first year class is another reason Mason is so excited for 2016. The group includes Emma Tenbarge, a midfielder; Kallie Saudek, who is a candidate for attack or defense; Suzanna Penikis, another gifted shooter at attack; Korinna Garfield in the midfield and Eliza Quigley, fresh off of the ice hockey season.
"We're very excited about this class," Mason said.
The Ephs goalkeeper situation is interesting. The incumbent is junior Margaret Draper, currently sidelined by an injury, but who comes back after a promising rookie campaign in 2015 that saw her post a 10.97 goals against average and a .373 save percentage. Senior Corey Michon is back after two years and will play a back-up role, and first year Ana Alvarenga is also vying for time in the net.
"We feel good about the situation," Mason said. "Margaret improved so much last season as the season progressed. She has a great understanding of the game, she clears the ball well and she very quick. Ana is a lot like Margaret, very quick with a great understanding of the game."
The Ephs will have their work cut out for them as their schedule features six conference schools ranked in the Top 20 nationally, beginning with No. 2 Trinity Saturday. They also have an early challenging non-conference slate with RIT, Union and Buffalo State facing them in Florida.
"The conference continues to be incredibly strong," Mason said. "It will be great competition for us, and our non-conference schedule is equally as difficult. But we have a very hard-working, close-knit group that has been working very well together and we're looking forward to the start of the season."