Women's Lacrosse Opens 2012 Season On The Road Against Connecticut, Saturday, Feb. 25 At 1 PM

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Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 @ 1 p.m
Quinnipiac University Bobcats (0-0, 0-0 Northeast Conference) vs
University of Connecticut Huskies (1-0, 0-0 Big East)

George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex - Storrs, Conn. 

Season Opener
The reigning Northeast Conference Champion Quinnipiac women's lacrosse team kicks off its 2012 season when it heads upstate to face non-conference opponent Connecticut (1-0, 0-0 Big East) on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 1 p.m.

Live stats for this Saturday's game can be accessed by visiting the Official Website of Quinnipiac Athletics, www.QuinnipiacBobcats.com.  

About Connecticut
The Huskies are coming off their first victory of the season in which they defeated Iona, 10-7, on Saturday, Feb. 18. Connecticut's offense was led by senior attackers M.E. Lapham (two goals, three assists) and senior Kiersten Tupper (four goals, one assist), while sophomore midfielder Lauren Kahn also added four points (three goals, one assist). Lapham also led the squad with four ground balls, and junior Brittney Testa made a game-high 16 saves in goal. 

All-Time Against The Huskies
Saturday's game will be the 13th time the two sides face each other on the turf. Despite Connecticut's 10-2 all-time series lead, the teams have split the last four games. In their most recent meeting on February, 27, 2011, the Huskies came away with a 17-12 victory over the Bobcats. Senior midfielder Lauren Matuszczak (East Longmeadow, Mass.), junior attacker Marissa Caroleo (North Babylon, N.Y.), and freshman attacker Michaela Tinsley (Shrewsbury, Mass.) led the offensive charge with three points apiece, while junior midfielder Devon Gibney (Hopkinton, Mass.) led the team with four caused turnovers and sophomore midfielder Chelsea Guerrera (Wantagh, N.Y.) finished with a team-high three draw controls. Junior goalie Noelle Martello (Westbury, N.Y.) played the majority of the game in goal for Quinnipiac en route to a game-high 13 saves. 

Bobcats Season Preview
Quinnipiac enters the 2012 season in uncharted territory, as it sets out to defend its title after winning the NEC Championship for the first time in program-history. The Bobcats' 2011 season (8-1 NEC, 13-5 overall) saw record-breaking performances, from Caroleo's program-high 53 goals, to Gibney's NEC Tournament MVP selection. There is clear motivation to remain the top program in the conference and continue league tradition, as the previous four teams (Sacred Heart '08-'10, Monmouth '06-'07, Mount St. Mary's '04-'05, and UMBC '02-'03) have all repeated as champions in the season(s) following their first championship run.

"Our expectations are always to compete for a conference championship," said head coach Danie Caro. "However, based on last year's success, I think this year's team will be focusing on a tougher goal. Winning the NEC Championship will be a big step for us, but we are also working towards winning the NCAA Play-In game and competing in the NCAA Tournament. I think all of the returners are disappointed with the way the season ended and there is a sense that they missed an opportunity. The seniors in particular really want to leave their mark on the program and they want to ensure that this year is the best ever in the history of the program."

As a team, Quinnipiac ranked towards the top of the conference in almost every category. The squad was first in goals per game (13.44), assists per game (8.22), points per game (22.56), draw controls per game (14.67) and shot percentage (.489), while they ranked second only to Robert Morris in ground balls per game (18.11). Quinnipiac finished tops in the league with a 8.23 goal against average, and was third with 8.89 caused turnovers per game.

"I think this year's squad is just as talented as last year's team," said Caro. "Although we lost some significant contributors to graduation, the core of our team has returned, with at least 50 percent of the starters from each position group back for 2012. We are also expecting some of our sophomores to step into more prominent roles on the field, and we have a number of freshmen that we expect to contribute immediately. Hopefully we can we can come together as a team this pre-season so we are able to perform at a high level during our early non-conference games."

The Bobcats' team philosophy and equal distribution of the ball not only impacted its stay atop the NEC leader-board, but also among all Division I women's lacrosse teams. Quinnipiac's overall mark of 7.50 assists per game led all 91 women's lacrosse programs, as did its assisted goals percentage of 55.8 percent. Despite having several players post significant offensive numbers, the team strayed from any display of selfishness on the field, as seven of the team's eight "regulars" on attack posted over 30 points. This was quite the astounding feat, considering no other NEC team had more than five players with over 30 points. The Bobcats' offense clicked all season long and was the only NEC team to amass more than 300 points on the season (377).

Confidence In Net
Senior goalie Noelle Martello (Westbury, Conn.) looks to build on a breakout junior season, in which she finished second in the nation with a .510 overall save percentage. Her 7.83 goals against average and .561 save percentage ranked first in NEC action, while Quinnipiac's overall defense led the NEC with an 8.23 goals against average and a .540 save percentage.

"Noelle will be a critical factor in our success in 2012 because she is a game changer," said Caro, "When she is 'on,' she is the best goalkeeper in the conference. Not only is she a great ball-stopper, but her ability to spark our offensive transition gives us an advantage that a lot of our opponents do not have and are unable to counter. Freshmen Sam Tilts (Port Washington, N.Y.) will start the season as Noelle's back-up, but she is a strong goalkeeper in her own right, so we expect her to challenge and push Noelle."

Defense Wins Championships
Quinnipiac's defense is led by senior Kim Davis (Darien, Conn.), whose ground balls (40) and caused turnovers (18) had her ranked her first and tied for third on the team, respectively, in 2011.

"Kim is one of our smallest players, but she is also one of our toughest," said Caro. "She is very competitive and is one of the players we rely on to play with intensity every day. She will be joined by juniors Chelsea Guerrera (Wantagh, N.Y.) and Kiera Carey (Long Beach, N.Y.), who have both logged significant minutes over the past two seasons."

Guerrera and Carey look to play an important role in Quinnipiac's transition game this season as the team's speed will be one of its key attributes. Caro also notes that while sophomore Kelsey Maroney (West Granby, Conn.) and freshmen Vicki Kuhn (East Hampstead, N.H.) will also see significant minutes on defense, they both have the ability to play in the midfield if necessary.

"Kuhn may be our best one-on-one defender," said Caro. "She has incredibly quick footwork and understands how to play good body position defense."

Leadership Aplenty
Senior captains Marissa Caroleo (North Babylon, N.Y.) and Devon Gibney (Hopkinton, Mass.) will once again anchor the midfield for Quinnipiac in 2012. Arguably one of the best midfield duos in the conference, Caroleo (53 goals, 10 assists in 2011) and Gibney (38 goals, 15 assists and 47 draw controls) are both capable of being dominating forces all over the field.

"There will be a lot of pressure on them this spring," said Caro. "But I believe they have proven that not only can they handle the pressure, they actually thrive on it."

Caroleo became just the second player in program history to be named NEC Player of the Year, after posting a program-high 53 goals (also a league high in 2011), while Gibney was Quinnipiac's first player to ever earn Tournament MVP honors after her 12-point performance during NEC Championship weekend. The two seniors both eclipsed the 100 point mark last season and now stand seventh (Gibney) and 12th (Caroleo) all-time in program-history.

Sophomore Emily Samuelman (North Andover, Mass.) is expected to fill the third midfield position, while classmate Kearney Sneath (Branford, Conn.) and Phoebe LaPlante (New Bedford, Mass.) are also prepared to see playing time between the restraining lines.

Feeders From Behind The Net
The Bobcats' low attackers, juniors Lianne Toomey (Hicksville, N.Y.) and Sarah Allen (Glastonbury, Conn.), who were both key contributors as sophomores a year ago, look to significantly add to the offense once again. Allen led the NEC in both assists (34) and assists per game (1.89), while Toomey (27 goals, six assists) had a knack for putting the ball in the net when it counted.

Fifth-year senior Jennifer Skipper (Centerport, N.Y.), an NEC All-Tournament selection a year ago, sophomore Michaela Tinsley (Shrewsbury, Mass.), who appeared 13 games in 2011, and first-year player Kyra Ochwat (Farmingdale, N.Y.) will contribute regularly in the offensive rotation.

"Tinsley and Ochwat are both great cutters and great finishers around the 8-meter," said Caro. "Skipper, who can also play in the midfield, was a key component in our transition game last year and we expect her to fill that role again this season. Sophomore Kayla Fu (Severna Park, Md.), freshman Keira Flaherty (Braintree, Mass.) along with newcomer Briana Fountain (Marshfield, Mass.), should all challenge for playing time on attack this spring."

Fresh Faces
Coach Caro predicts that Kuhn and Ochwat will likely start or play significant minutes for the Bobcats if they are to remain healthy.

"They both have the potential to be All-Rookie Team candidates in the conference, and are continuing to improve," said Caro. "Ochwat has really sharp stick-work and is a great cutter, so she should put up some points for us this spring. Kuhn plays great body position defense and is one of the fastest players on the team."

Season Schedule
Following Saturday's game, Quinnipiac then heads out west to face St. Mary's (Calif.) in Denver, Co. on Monday, March 12 at 4 p.m. (MST) before playing Denver on Thursday, March 15 at 2 p.m. (MST). Quinnipiac then faces Brown on Sunday, March 18 at 1 p.m., before hosting its first home game of the season on Wednesday, March 21 at 2 p.m. against Vermont.

Quinnipiac travels to face Wagner on Friday, March 23 at 3 p.m., followed by a contest at LIU Brooklyn on Sunday, March 25 at 5 p.m. Quinnipiac hosts Mount St. Mary's on Friday, March 30 at 3 p.m. before hosting Monmouth the following Sunday, Apr. 1 at 12 p.m.

Quinnipiac heads out on the road for a three-game stretch against Saint Francis (Thursday, Apr. 5 at 3 p.m.), Robert Morris (Saturday, Apr. 7 at 11 a.m.) and Sacred Heart (Friday, Apr. 13 at 4 p.m.).

The Bobcats finish the regular season with three-straight home contests against Fairfield on Sunday, Apr. 15 at 12 p.m., Central Connecticut on Friday, Apr. 20 at 4 p.m. and Bryant on Sunday, Apr. 22 at 12 p.m.

For more information about the women's lacrosse team, please visit the Official Website of Quinnipiac Athletics,www.QuinnipiacBobcats.com.

Contact: Ross Bennett; rsbennett@quinnipiac.edu