Morgan Becker recorded 30 goals and a team-high 11 assists last season for the Lady Flames.
With eight starters returning from last season's squad and an influx of young talent joining the program, the Liberty Lady Flames lacrosse team has high hopes for the 2013 season.
This year marks the fourth season for the lacrosse program and the first year that the Lady Flames will be competing as a member of the Big South Conference. In its first three seasons, Liberty played in the National Lacrosse Conference (NLC).
Liberty will look to bounce back from a 3-14 record in 2012 and head coach Regan Denham is confident the 2013 Lady Flames' squad will do just that. "This team is led by a great group of veterans who have stepped up in leadership roles for us," commented Denham. "The girls have been fighting through adversity and working very hard ever since the beginning of fall practice and we are very excited to see the fruits of our labor."
The Lady Flames return nine of their top 10 goal scorers from last season, including redshirt-sophomore Morgan Becker (30) and junior Nina Dunay (27). Captains Chloe McIntosh, Amber Nichols and Jen Freymond, along with junior goalie Kristen Masullo, provide Liberty with experience at each position.
A Look at the Lady Flames by Position:
Attack: Morgan Becker and sophomores Kacie Fogle and Sam Struss will look to anchor a young group of attackers for the Lady Flames. Becker, Fogle and Struss combined for 34 starts last season at attack.
Becker recorded 30 goals and a team-high 11 assists in 2012. Fogle contributed 16 goals and six assists, while Struss tallied 12 goals and five assists. In her freshman campaign last year, Fogle set the single-season program record with 54 draw controls. Becker finished second on the squad with 34 draw controls.
Sophomore Caroline Milwicz saw action in 15 games in 2012, including one start, and finished the year with four goals and an assist.
"The group of girls that we have returning at attack mesh very well together as a unit," said Denham. "They communicate very well and are vocal with the rest of the team as well."
Newcomers Natalie Silvers and Kallie Britton will compete for playing time at attack this season.
Midfield: One of the positions at which the Lady Flames return the most experience is at midfield. Jen Freymond, Nina Dunay and Candice Parsons headline the midfield line, which also includes freshmen Kelly Belue and Alyssa Kidder.
"The upperclassmen that we have returning this year are poised to have great seasons for us," stated Denham. "They are doing an outstanding job of leading the younger girls and helping them adjust to playing at the Division I level."
Freymond had a breakout season last year, setting Liberty single-season program records with 52 ground balls and 30 caused turnovers. The junior concluded the season ranked eighth in the country with 3.06 ground balls per game and 18th in caused turnovers per game with 1.76.
Dunay finished third on the team in points (35), goals (27) and assists (8) and tied for second with 49 shots.
Entering her senior season, Parsons has played in 49 career games, which ties her for first in program history. She is also third in career starts with 46. In 2012, Parsons registered 20 ground balls and 14 draw controls and also chipped in eight goals and two assists.
Defense: On defense, three-year starter and tri-captain Chloe McIntosh returns for her senior season and will be joined by a couple of upperclassmen in Amber Nichols and Jen Moyer, who are making the transition to defense this year.
Senior Jillian Krick, along with freshmen Melanie Via, Kelly Garrett, Meghan Hammond and Tori Schuler will add solid depth on the defensive side of the field for the Lady Flames. Freshman Lindsey Spence had a strong fall season, but is currently battling injuries.
"Having an experienced veteran like Chloe on defense this year will be a huge plus for us," commented Denham. "I'm really happy with how well Amber and Jen have adjusted from playing in the midfield last year to strengthening our defensive unit this season. Our younger players are displaying a great desire to learn and improve their defensive game and I expect them to continue to get stronger as the season progresses."
McIntosh has been a mainstay in the Liberty lineup since the program's inception in 2010. The Texas native has played and started in 48 career games and is the current program leader in ground balls with 110. Last year, McIntosh finished second on the team in ground balls (42) and caused turnovers (19) and ranked 17th in the country with 2.63 ground balls per game.
Nichols saw playing time in 16 games last season, making 12 starts. The tri-captain concluded the season tied for fourth on the team in points (22), fifth in goals (13), second in assists (9) and third in draw controls (21).
A year ago, Moyer was tied for fourth on the team with 25 ground balls and 20 draw controls. The junior also notched 11 caused turnovers, which was good for fifth on the squad.
Goalkeeper: Two-year starter Kristen Masullo returns as Liberty's starting goalkeeper this season, while sophomore Kristin Boland will add solid depth in goal for Liberty. Freshman Juliann Elmer will see limited action this season due to injury.
Masullo started all 17 games in goal last season, while tallying 12 complete games. The junior finished the season with 179 saves, ranking her third in the country, and averaged 10.53 saves per game, which was good for second in the nation.
"Both of our goalies have made great strides since the beginning of fall practice and both have come a long way," mentioned Denham. "Kristen Masullo and Kristin Boland have both been playing well and will continue to push each other to play better this season."
A Look at the Lady Flames' Schedule: In addition to its Big South lineup of games, Liberty's schedule is highlighted by home contests against Navy and Virginia Tech, as well as road matchups with BIG EAST foe Cincinnati and George Mason.
Overall, the Lady Flames will play nine contests at the friendly confines of the Liberty Lacrosse Field and eight road games.
"We are really excited about this year's schedule," commented Denham. "We are looking forward to being a part of the Big South and being able to help grow the conference. Our schedule gives us an opportunity to play some tough non-conference opponents as well as some new teams we haven't seen in previous seasons."
Liberty opens the 2013 season on the road at Stetson on Sunday at 2 p.m. The matchup marks the earliest season opener for the Lady Flames.
The Lady Flames return to Lynchburg for their home opener against three-time defending Patriot League champion Navy on Feb. 16.
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