DOVER, Del. - This year for the Wesley College Women's Lacrosse team the message that Head Coach Aimee LeClair and her staff have instilled in the preseason has been a simple one: "We are one."
The coaching staff took a unique approach to this season, deliberately choosing not to name team captains in hopes that each individual would take the opportunity to step up when their time comes this season.
"We specifically didn't choose captains for this season because we wanted to foster leadership skills in everyone on the team," said LeClair. "So far a lot of different people have stepped up in different aspects, and I think the entire team is benefitting from that."
The Wolverines will be without their top five scorers from last season and will need to find offense from several different sources in the 2016 campaign. Francesca Benitez, Allison Perugini, and Maddison Cypher return as the team's top scorers from last year, each registering six points. Transfer junior Ashley Luna and freshmen Bailey Olds and Fallon Fore will also be called upon to score on the offensive end.
In the midfield, Benitez will be flanked by fellow returner Rodneisha Scott. Scott finished last season with 26 ground balls and 14 caused turnovers while also scoring four goals. Newcomers Brianna Bacon and Foley Wassmuth will also see action in the midfield as the Wolverines will look to control the pace of play.
The Wesley defense will be their most seasoned unit, with seniors Summer Stone and Khadijah Sanders as well as sophomores Nyi Wright and Alexis Galloway all in the mix. Freshmen Naomi Reynolds and Taylor Speicher will add depth to the unit as they battle with some of the nation's top offenses in conference play.
In the crease, Savannah Clough will return after starting all 16 games for the Wolverines in her freshman season. Clough finished second in the CAC with 134 saves on the year, the most by a Wesley goalkeeper since 2013. With a full season of experience under her belt, Clough will look to improve upon last year's effort and help Wesley continue their growth as a program.
The Wolverines began last season with a 4-1 mark before entering Capital Athletic Conference play and will look to repeat the same success with another tough non-conference schedule. The squad opens the year with Goucher on February 20 at home before taking on Randolph and Misericordia on Feb. 27 and March 3. Wesley completes its non-conference schedule with contests against Hood, Mt. St. Vincent, Bard, Alvernia, and Centenary (N.J.) before taking on the CAC.
Preseason polls have ranked two of Wesley's conference opponents within the Top 10, with multiple other squads falling just outside the Top 20. Wesley will look to qualify for conference playoffsfor the first time since joining the CAC. The Wolverines host Christopher Newport to open the CAC slate on March 12 and then battle Mary Washington on March 30. Wesley opens the month of April with three straight CAC home games before finishing out the regular season on the road against Salisbury and Southern Virginia.
With such a difficult schedule and highly touted opponents, the Wolverines will still seek to trend in the right direction. The squad finished last season with a 6-10 record, improving from a five-win season the year before, but Coach LeClair remains optimistic.
"We're a young team, there's no doubt about it," said LeClair, "I think that we have the opportunity to surprise some teams this year."
"We're further along at this point of the preseason than we ever have been in the past," said the head coach. "The team sees the big picture, and everything is coming together. We're just ready to play."
Wesley opens their season with a home game against Goucher College on February 20, scheduled for 1 p.m.