FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Fifteen-time defending champion Salisbury edged out York by the narrowest of margins for the top spot in the 2018 Capital Athletic Conference Women's Lacrosse Preseason Poll. The Sea Gulls compiled five first-place votes and 61 points, edging the Spartans (4 first-place votes, 60 points) by just one point as the preseason favorite in a vote among the conference head coaches.
Salisbury defeated York in the CAC title game last spring in a matchup that has become commonplace in recent conference history. The Sea Gulls and Spartans have clashed for the conference crown five out of the last six seasons. Both squads advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight last year.
Mary Washington, which also represented the CAC in the NCAA Tournament last season, took third in the poll with 50 points. Christopher Newport landed in fourth place with 42 points, followed by projected playoff teams St. Mary's (36) and Marymount (29) in fifth and sixth, respectively.
Frostburg State ranked seventh in the voting with 23 points, with Wesley (14) and Southern Virginia (9) rounding out the preseason rankings.
A trio of CAC teams begin their seasons on Saturday, Feb. 17, with all nine squads opening up non-conference action by the end of February. Conference play is set to start in late March.
The six-team CAC Tournament will once again feature six teams this spring, beginning with the first round on Saturday, Apr. 28 and culminating with the championship game on Saturday, May 5.
2018 CAC Women's Lacrosse Preseason Poll
Points (First-Place Votes)
Below is a brief preview of each team entering the 2018 campaign:
Entering 2018, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT is looking to build upon last season's 11-8 campaign, which ended in the second round of the Capital Athletic Conference playoffs. Led by head coach Lisa Valentine, the Captains are anchored by a decorated senior class, including two-time All-Region selection Catie Chess and former All-Conference honoree Tess D'Arcy. Junior Sarah Culver has also collected All-League nods during each of her first two collegiate campaigns.
Third-year head coach Hayley Whear will boast a young but talented FROSTBURG STATE roster this spring after graduating one of the program's largest senior classes last season. Junior Morgan Cavey returns to power the attack after scoring 47 goals with 15 assists last spring, while sophomore Molly Biggers should see a larger role that will allow her to improve on her 15 goals during her first campaign. Seniors Lachele Coates and Samantha Cataldo combined for 19 starts on defense last season.
MARY WASHINGTON enters the 2018 season with high expectations following last year's 15-6 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Heading the list of returnees is senior All-American Kirsten Littlefield and junior All-American Hanna Ashby. Eagles' head coach Caitlin Moore also returns senior Holly Hudson and junior All-Region performer, Mackenzie Maguire, who combined for 74 goals last season. The Eagles start their season on Feb. 17 and have six teams ranked in the top 25 by the IWLCA featured on their regular season schedule.
MARYMOUNT returns most of its 2017 ECAC Championship squad with high hopes in the 2018 campaign, led by one of the most decorated players in program history, senior Abby Wescott. The two-time All-CAC member ranked second in the country in assists (65) and 15th in points (97), while entering her senior season at fifth in the country in active career leaders in assists (138). Helping her on the offensive end is junior Jessica Crew, who led the CAC in goals last season with 64, while senior defender Liah Agouras, a two-time All-CAC member guides the backfield. Agouras led the CAC in caused turnovers (37) and ground balls (62) last season. Graduating just three, Head coach Kate Athing will look to the team's experience to have a successful year in the league.
ST. MARY'S won three of its last four games last season and the Seahawks are ready to continue that momentum into 2018. This year's team features 14 letter winners, including seven starters, and nine newcomers. St. Mary's returns one All-CAC performer in Lacey Brown, who finished as the team's leading goal scorer with 36. Strong leadership from captains Gabby Beese, Megan Cannon, and Maribeth Anderson and solid depth at all positions should have the Seahawks back to their 2016 form when the program gained their eighth NCAA tournament bid.
SALISBURY is coming off its 15th straight CAC championship after defeating York 7-2 in last year's title game. The Sea Gulls come into the 2018 season ranked No. 9 in the IWLCA preseason poll. The maroon and gold return plenty of offensive firepower, with six of the seven team leaders in points returning for the 2018 season. Salisbury returns its leading scorer in senior Dana King, who registered 64 points on 35 goals and 29 assists. Fellow attack Krissy Murphy also returns after leading the Sea Gulls in assists with 30. In the midfield, senior Allison Hynson will lead the way after being named a third-team All-American. Three-time All-American goalkeeper Gianna Falcone will be working with a new defense, as four starting defenders were lost due to graduation.
SOUTHERN VIRGINIA looks to win its first-ever CAC game by returning nine players from the 2017 season. Junior Majkaleah Knowles and sophomore Lauren Thatcher lead the returners with 21 and 15 points scored, respectively. Goalie Madilyn Krause, who had a save percentage of 33.8 also returns for the Knights.
WESLEY looks to better a six-win 2017 season, which featured the longest winning streak and best start to a season in program history. The Wolverines will be led by juniors Fallon Fore, Brianna Bacon and Paige Brehm. Fore notched 45 points, 44 draw controls and 39 goals, which led the team last season. Fore's 44 draw controls and 39 goals ranked ninth in the CAC in 2017. Bacon paced the Wovlerines with a team-high 10 assists along with 32 points and 22 goals. Brehm led the Wolverines with 35 ground balls and 20 caused turnovers. Brehm also recorded 31 points with 25 goals and six assists. Senior goalkeeper Shelby Schirmer returns for the Wolverines, who ranked third in the CAC in saves with 137.
YORK enters 2018 on the heels of a 16-4 season, and a perfect 8-0 record through the Capital Athletic Conference slate, which included a 10-6 win over Salisbury, York's first win over the Sea Gulls in program history. As conference regular season champions, the Green and White appeared in the CAC Tournament Championship for the fifth time in school history before capturing two NCAA Tournament wins en route to reaching the national quarterfinal. Five All-CAC picks are returning under head coach Jen Muston, who was named the league's Coach of the Year for the third time last spring, including IWLCA First-Team All-American and CAC Player of the Year Nicole Clauter and conference Rookie of the Year Meghan Fox. Regan Cook, another freshman, was named to the All-CAC First Team while Melissa Meehling and goalie Charlotte Wright were second-team selections. Additionally, seven of the eight goal scorers will be back in the Green and White led by Fox's 39 goals, Cook, who scored 28 times and junior Skye Slater, fresh off a 22-goal season. Clauter and Katherine Burk, who started all 20 games, will help anchor a strong Spartan defense that allowed 5.32 goals in CAC games a year ago, along with Wright back in net. Incredibly, seven opponents listed on the 2018 schedule joined York in the pre-season poll top 25, including top-ranked Gettysburg, who claimed 19 of the 25 available first-place votes.