FRANKLIN, Ind. – With plenty of experience up and down the lineup, the Franklin College women's lacrosse team has their sights set on taking a step forward as they prepare to embark on the 2019 season.
Now in his second year at the helm of the program, head coach Chris Wilham returns 10 players from last season's team as Franklin gets set to compete in the newly-formed Heartland Collegiate Lacrosse Conference (HCLC). The foundation of program veterans has been key for the Grizzlies in the pre-season and has set the example for the seven new faces set to make their debut in 2019.
"Everything has been shaping up really well for us so far," Wilham noted. "We are lucky to have a lot of returners back and young returners at key positions. We have a group of kids that know our system and know our expectations and that's a great starting spot for us. It's nice to not have to rely on a group of seniors and then have them leave after the year and we feel like that's great for us because it gives our young kids a chance to take ownership of this team."
The Grizzlies' biggest strength coming into the year will be in their own zone, where the Grizzlies return defensive mainstays in juniors Kara Hawkins and Emily Roberts, as well as sophomore Maria Guzman. Adding to the back end are junior Kendal Hovis and freshmen Morgan Bryant and Emilia Martinez. In goal, sophomore Courtney Jones returns after a strong debut season that saw her start eight times between the pipes, giving the Grizzlies a solid foundation that will aim to keep opponents in check.
"It's a luxury to be able to bring back as much on defense as we do," Wilham added. "We return four starters on defense and the one we lost is coaching our defense. So we have a lot of chemistry on the back end and that stability on the back end will allow so more creativity and room to grow on the offensive side."
Offensively, the Grizzlies will see the most turnover from last year's squad. Franklin graduated their top three goal scorers, leaving the attack in the hands of a young but experienced group of players. Sophomore Abbey Voss is the team's top returning goal scorer after potting 11 tallies as a rookie. Senior Brooke Hughes' 16 points are the most among returning players while Haley Ash (9 goals) and Sam Collier (10 points) look to expand their roles on the attack this season.
Seniors Shelbi Hunter and Tiffany Crites, junior August Hartzell, sophomores Madeleine Correll and Lexi Blackburn and freshman Peytan Mills add depth to the offensive attack, giving the Grizzlies plenty of different combinations at their disposal to fill the net.
"We are going to be relying on our freshmen and sophomores to carry our offense," Wilham noted. "In years past, we have always lost so much of our offense to graduation. We graduated our top three goal scorers, but we like what we have coming back in the attacking midfield and up front. They all know their roles are going to increase and they are ready for it."
The Grizzlies open the 2019 season on Saturday, Mar. 2, when they welcome Alma College to Faught Stadium. The opening draw is set for 1:00 p.m.