IRVING, Texas – The University of Dallas women's lacrosse team begins its 2017 season this weekend in Tacoma, Washington, at host school University of Puget Sound. On Saturday, the Crusaders will open against Puget Sound and then play Linfield College the next day. Both start times are at noon (PST).
Destinee Johnson is the 8th head coach for the Dallas program and enters her first season at the helm after coming from NCAA Division II University of Alabama of Huntsville as an assistant coach. She inherits a UD squad that went 4-8 last year. Johnson expects this group to be better about improving on little things in the game that were not done as well last year.
"Overall the goal is being a better team using things we didn't do last year this year to be able to compete with other teams," Johnson stated. "Everything from the draw to scoring we have to be better at. We have to stay focused and practice the way we will play in the game."
The Crusaders roster lists 16 players with 10 returners from last season. Headlining the offense is Lexi Leite (Houston, Texas). In her rookie season, the attack tied a team-high in goals with 27. She returns as the leading scorer as the team graduated Colby Madrigal and Hayley Rodgers who rounded out the top three in offense. Leite etched 30 points with help from three assists.
A trio of returners that posted three goals each include: Claire Gagliano (Peachtree City, Ga.), Erika Keever (Fort Worth, Texas), and Gwen Mohler (San Francisco, Calif.). Mohler is the lone senior on the team and is playing her third season with the program. Annie Elfelt (Brookfield, Wis.) completes the group of players that scored last season on the current team with two.
Kyla Mangham (Oklahoma City, Okla.) served as a goalkeeper last season and notched 77 saves in 12 starts of her first year playing Other players back on the team are: Eliza Knapp (St. Paul, Minn.), Frances Davis (Heber City, Utah), and Julia Shinkle (Ewing, N.J.).
"All my returners should be making an impact. They are the ones who have to step up and take the challenge," Johnson responded in regards to how impactful the returners will be.
Six players are new to the team this season with five true freshmen. Patty Hahn (Plano, Texas) is the other player that did not play last season but did suit up in 2015. The midfielder posted 13 goals with 22 shots (20 on cage) in her rookie campaign. Making out the group of newcomers are: Darya Gerami (Burbank, Calif.), Katie Crnkovich (Walnut Creek, Calif.), Leeshia Rocha (San Leandro, Calif.), Christiane Flynn (Seattle, Wash.), and Lizz Winkler (St. Charles, Ill.). Coach Johnson looks forward to seeing how they adjust and grow throughout the season.
"They are adjusting well, they are also filling in the missing people we lost last year" Johnson explained. "I would like to highlight Patty Hahn because she was gone last year (studied abroad in Rome). I want to see how she will come back from the 2015 season as one of the leading scorers."
Even though this is Johnson's first season at Dallas, the atmosphere around the team has been described as "family" and she is ready to witness her girls translate their hard work on the field Saturday.
"Knowing that each player has come into this season trusting and believing in me that I will teach them and prepare them for the season," Johnson explained when asked favorite part of coaching at Dallas. "Also, being able to change the lives of each and every player on and off the field."
A LOOK AT THE OPPONENTS
(University of Puget Sound)
The Loggers went 2-12 overall last season and 1-6 at the home confines. They open 2017 as well on Saturday against UD. Roxanne Krietzman returns as the leading scorer from last season with 13 goals. Dallas is 0-2 in the all-time series against the Loggers. The programs played the first two seasons of existence for the Crusaders, with the most recent being a 17-4 final at Crusader Field in 2005.
The Wildcats were winless lasts season going 0-15. They played three contests on neutral fields that season. Sunday's game with the Crusaders marks Linfield's season opener and will be hosted at Puget Sound. Dallas is 1-7 overall in the series against Linfield College. The most recent meeting was in 2009 at Linfield with a 15-5 setback for the Crusaders.
Dallas does not wait too long before starting its largest home schedule in program history with eight in Irving. University of Saint Mary (KS) is slated for the home-opening match on Feb. 25. The Crusaders continue a five-game home stand the next day with Southwestern University.