Year after year, the Hoyas seem poised to take the national title.

But year after year, all they take home are hard-earned lessons.

The theme of last season for the Hoyas was “decision time.” Yet despite posting their fifth consecutive undefeated season in the Big East, and despite taking down Duke and Maryland in the NCAA Tournament, the Hoyas had the decision made for them by the Virginia Cavaliers, falling 12-9 in the Final Four.

“It was obviously a tough road, having to go through the whole ACC to get to the finals. You always leave with a bit of a bad taste in your mouth when you lose,” Head Coach Ricky Fried said. “But looking back on the season, it was a successful year. We learned a lot about ourselves.”

If the Hoyas want to remain a dominant team – or take the next step by joining the short list of women’s lacrosse national champions – Fried stressed the need to play as a single cohesive unit across the field and throughout the season.

“We have a group of people that, when we play together on both ends of the field, are pretty tough to stop,” Fried said. “When we play as individuals we’re good – but not as good as when we play together.”

A major component of that group this season will be the team’s seven seniors. Team captain Sarah Oliphant and classmate Catherine Elbe will anchor the attack. As a junior, Oliphant led the team in scoring, tallying 32 goals and dishing 20 assists. Like Oliphant, Elbe started all 18 games for Georgetown last season, adding 29 goals on 56 shots and picking up 44 groundballs.

Senior Hollis Pica made an appearance in 16 games without a start, contributing five goals and four assists. Sophomore attack Coco Stanwick finished last year second on the team in points with 45 on 17 goals and a team-leading 28 assists, starting every game as a freshman.

Backing up the attack will be the midfield, led by Lauren Redler and senior captains Allison Chambers and Lauryn Bernier. Bernier and Chambers combined for 51 draw controls last season – six fewer than Gloria Lozano (SFS ’04), who graduated in May. Bernier, who tallied 32 last season, will likely be asked to step up and fill the big shoes left empty by Lozano in the draw circle.

Senior goaltender Sarah Robinson will conduct a young defensive squad from between the pipes. Last season Robinson made 158 saves while allowing 137 goals. Her backup, Margaret Farland, saw action in five contests for the Hoyas, collecting six saves and missing three.

Bernier, Chambers and Oliphant take over as captains for the graduated threesome of Michi Ellers (COL ’04), Anouk Peters (COL ’04) and Lozano. Last year’s three seniors were also the team’s captains.

“They all played a vital role in our success,” Fried said of last year’s seniors. “All three of them will be missed.”

Still, Fried expressed hope that the changing of the guard and the large and experienced senior class could be just what the Hoyas need to elevate them to the next level.

“I’m lucky to inherit seven seniors because it gives me a group of kids who’ve been with the program, understand the expectations and know what it takes to get to that level,” Fried said.

On the other end of the spectrum are five players just beginning their college lacrosse careers. The freshman class consists of two defenders, two midfielders and an attack. On a team with talent and experience to spare in the upperclassmen, playing time for the freshmen is likely to be limited, at least early in the season.

“We don’t know right now if any of them are going to contribute immediately, but we look for them to contribute at some point throughout the season – a couple of them, at least,” Fried said. “As of right now, none of them will probably start. Whoever goes in, whether they’re freshmen or seniors, we expect the level to remain the same.”

A glance at the Hoyas’ season schedule will tell any freshman that level needs to be high if the team hopes to repeat its trip to the Final Four or further. During the regular season, Georgetown will face eight of the 16 teams that made the NCAA Tournament last season, including tournament finalists Princeton and Virginia. Five of the Hoyas’ seven home games pit them against top-20 opponents, and the Hoyas will face six of the top 10 teams in the nation.

“We added Virginia to the schedule, so that’s obviously going to be a big game because they’re defending national champions. Princeton, Maryland, Duke are always big games, whether it’s local rivalry or just past history,” Fried said. “We probably have one of the top three toughest schedules in the country.”

Still, expectations are high for the Hoyas. For the fourth consecutive year, conference coaches voted the Hoyas most likely to win the Big East title. Georgetown will face Notre Dame, Rutgers and Boston College – who finished 2nd, 4th and 7th in the conference last year – away. They’ll take on Syracuse and Connecticut when those teams visit Kehoe Field.

“Our focus is on the Big East,” Fried said. “If we win the Big East, we go to the tournament. The two big teams in the Big East are Syracuse and Notre Dame, from our perspective, but going up to Rutgers is never easy, so that’s always a focus for us as well. The Big East is our first focus, and then rivals and traditional top five teams are going to be there as well.”

By most accounts, Georgetown is becoming a traditional top five team in its own right. Lacrosse Magazine ranked Georgetown ninth in its poll, while Inside Lacrosse has the Hoyas fifth on its list. Both polls place Virginia, Princeton, Northwestern and Duke above Georgetown in that order, while Lacrosse Magazine adds Maryland, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina and James Madison – all of whom the Hoyas will face in regular season play – to bump Georgetown down.

Former Head Coach Kim Simons preferred not to think about her team’s ranking, even when she led the Hoyas to their first ever No. 1 ranking in 2002. Fried takes a different perspective.

“That actually takes away a little pressure. Polls are polls, they are what they are – that’s redundant and redundant. We don’t have anything to prove to anyone else except for us,” Fried said.

“We think we’re a top program, and we plan to be there at the end of the year. It’s a lot better to start ninth and finish first than to start first and finish ninth.”

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