Lacrosse Preps For Challenging Stretch, Including Home Opener

Feb. 22, 2011

By Dave Malaska

Opening the season with a 1-2 mark, the Bearcats' lacrosse squad has shown some upside, as their goals per game are up over last season's output. The defense, too, has shown improvement.

Building on that promise, UC coach Lellie Swords' squad is about to face its biggest test of the young season. Wrapping up its four-game, season-opening road swing, the Bearcats travel to Music City this weekend to face Vanderbilt, ranked 11th nationally in the latest polls. Despite a tough, 14-10 loss to No.3 North Carolina last weekend, the Commodores (2-1) are a tough host. With five players with at least five goals through their first three games, led by Katherine Denkler's eight tallies, Vandy touts a high-octane offense. Averaging 16 goals per game, they've also benefited from 19 unassisted goals, five of them by Denkler. And that's with a slow start by one of the best college two-way midfielders in the country, junior Ally Carey.

Carey, whose 40 goals, 26 assists (along with 49 ground balls, 63 draw controls and 42 caused turnovers) last season made her a preseason Player of the Year finalist, has been quiet during Vandy's start, attempting only eight shots and scoring three points.

All told, the Commodores will be a mighty challenge for the Bearcats, who have allowed 13.5 goals per game -- but not impossible.

UC's offense has been solid, led by four goals apiece by Katie Liberatore, Kylie Ramsland and Laura Simanski, while five other Bearcats have contributed at least three goals each. Ramsland's nine assists also ranks fourth in the BIG EAST.

Meanwhile, Rachel Mercier is among the conference leaders in draw controls (9, tied for fourth in the league).



In goal, freshman Jen Walsh has also been consistent. After registering nine saves in UC's season opener, she added 17 in the Bearcats' last outing, a 15-7 loss to High Point. She has made 34 saves to date.

HOME, SWEET HOME: After the Vandy tilt, Cincinnati will finally be able to enjoy some home cooking. Hosting Oregon on March 6, it will be the deepest into the season UC has ventured before playing a home match yet. They'll be looking to avenge last season's 14-8 loss to the Ducks. In that game, Maddie Fink and Natalie Starvaggi both scored a pair of goals and Mercier added another, but it wasn't enough to overcome a slow start by UC.

With only one game under their belt, the Ducks are a bit of an unknown this early in the season. Despite being picked third in their league's preseason poll, Oregon dropped their season opener, 12-11, to Hofstra last weekend.

Following the showdown with the Ducks, UC will host Detroit, victims of a Bearcat rally from two goals down to take the win in the first game of the season last year. Game time with Detroit is 3 p.m. March 11. The Titans are getting a late start to their season, opening this weekend.

On March 22, Cincinnati wraps its home stand by hosting Stanford, who is off to a 3-0 start to their season -- including two wins over BIG EAST powers. Stanford beat Notre Dame, 13-12, on Feb.13, and then downed Syracuse, 11-10, last weekend.