Lacrosse: Defending the crown

Oct. 14, 2010, 1:35 a.m.

The Stanford women’s lacrosse team begins its fall season this Saturday, welcoming Fresno State, St. Mary’s and UC-Davis to town — three teams that Stanford will meet again in MPSF conference play in the spring.

Lacrosse: Defending the crown
The Stanford women's lacrosse team begins its quest to repeat as MPSF champions, as it opens its season this weekend against Fresno State (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily).

The championship season for women’s lacrosse won’t begin until February, but the Cardinal’s fall schedule will prove to be a championship-level test. After this weekend’s round-robin event at home, the Card will travel to Philadelphia, where it will take on three perennial lacrosse powerhouses in Penn, Virginia and Maryland, all of whom finished in the top 10 of last year’s final rankings.

But before the Cardinal can set its sights on its third NCAA appearance in the spring, it faces a test against three Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) foes this Saturday.

The UC-Davis Aggies are the headliner for the visitors, as the Aggies went 11-6 overall last season with a 3-3 record in conference, good enough for fourth in the MPSF. The Aggies pushed the Cardinal the full 60 minutes in their only meeting last season before eventually fading back, falling 17-14.

St. Mary’s finished the 2010 spring season with a 4-12 record and will be looking to rebound after a difficult performance in its last trip to the Farm. The Gaels had a tough time against the Cardinal, which was in the middle of a stretch that would end up being a seven-game winning streak. When all was said and done, the Card completed an impressive 21-5 victory, its largest margin of victory of the season.

Fresno State enters after a winless season and without its head coach of the past two years, as former leader Sue Behme moved on to Rochester earlier this month. Fresno State’s program will be looking for its first win ever, as the brand-new program began just two years ago.

In their matchups last year, the Cardinal dominated Fresno State, taking the Bulldogs down 19-4 in a game at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium, and later polished them off 16-1 in the first round of the MPSF Tournament in Denver.

The Cardinal will look to extend its winning ways from last season, as Stanford head coach Amy Bokker led the Cardinal to one of its best seasons ever. The girls from the Farm reached as high as No. 8 in the national rankings and won the MPSF Tournament title, defeating Denver 11-10 in double overtime. The victory avenged a 17-12 home loss to Denver earlier in the season, and marked the sixth consecutive MPSF title for the Cardinal.

This year, the Cardinal returns seven seniors from last year’s 15-6 squad, including last year’s two leading point-scorers, Sarah Flynn and Lauren Schmidt, who captured her second consecutive MPSF player of the year award last year. Senior goalkeeper Annie Read also returns to the Farm  — Read was nothing short of outstanding for the Cardinal last season. Her 0.496 save percentage was good enough for 13th in the nation.

A few other notable names to watch this weekend will be from the young guns on the team, as the Cardinal looks to have many young players in important roles this year, with four of its top nine point-scorers from last year lost to graduation. Perhaps the most notable departure is Claire Hubbard, who notched 41 assists from her attack position last year, the sixth-best total in the country.

Fans can also be on the lookout for the new freshman class this season, which boasts two Under Armour All-Americans, including attacker Annie Anton, who was named the best player in Colorado by the Denver Post, and goalkeeper Lyndsey Munoz, who was a selection to the ESPN All-Rise team.

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