NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The 2017 season was filled with plenty of close calls for the Yale women's lacrosse team. The Bulldogs had four Ivy League games decided by two goals or fewer and could have made the postseason were it not for three one-goal losses. That gives the 2018 team something to shoot for as Yale returns six players who started six or more games last season. With six starters lost to graduation, the Bulldogs will be counting on some younger players to emerge as contributors. They do have a large senior class of 10 -- led by midfielder Madeleine Gramigna (Summit, N.J.), who captains the team as it heads into its 43rd varsity season. Those seniors have seen the team make steady progress in recent years, including a 2017 season that saw the Bulldogs set school records for goals, points and draw controls in a season and knock off a nationally ranked opponent for the first time since 2010. They aim to continue those trends in 2018.
This is Yale's third season with Erica LaGrow as the team's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. Colleen Smith returns for her second season as an assistant, and Molly Hulseman enters her first season.
Here is a position-by-position look at the team heading into the season, which starts Saturday vs. Albany at Reese Stadium:
10 players (4 seniors, 2 juniors, 1 sophomore, 3 first years)
2 returning starters (6 or more starts in 2017): Comizio, Nixon
Yale's attack is loaded with veterans, including four seniors. Kiwi Comizio was enjoying a breakthrough campaign last year before she suffered an injury that sidelined her for the final three games. She still finished fourth on the team in goals (27) and points (29), with career highs in both categories. Her .600 shooting percentage was best in the Ivy League and 11th in the nation. After missing her senior season of field hockey this past fall, she is likely anxious to get out on the lacrosse field.
Maggie Pizzo missed her sophomore season to injury but returned to play in nine games last season, scoring seven goals and adding three assists while shooting .500.
Identical twins Katie Smith and Lily Smith take the field for one last season together, having played field hockey all four years at Yale and lacrosse since their sophomore year. Katie appeared in a career-high 10 games last season, scoring a pair of goals. Lily appeared in 12 games, making four starts, and scored eight goals.
The Bulldogs will rely heavily on junior attacker Izzy Nixon. Nixon contributes in a variety of ways, starting with her excellence on the draw. She was second in the league with 87 draw controls, the second-best total by a Yale player in 14 years. Nixon is also a big part of the attack, finishing third on the team in points (26-14-40) and fifth in goals. She was an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection, the lone returning all-league pick for the Bulldogs. Classmate Addie Zinsner was sidelined for most of the season, but appeared in three games -- including one start.
Sophomore Devon Doheny appeared in three games last season and scored her first career goal. She and a trio of first years add to Yale's depth at attack. Natalie DeWitt (St. Louis, Mo.) led her team at John Burroughs School in goals with 49, earning all-state recognition. Kayla Duperrouzel (Fairfax Station, Va.) was a first team US Lacrosse All-American, earning all-state honors four times. She set her school's single-season draw control record with 136. Isabelle Webster (Towson, Md.) comes from one of the most successful programs in the country -- McDonogh was ranked No. 1 in the nation last season and has won 177 consecutive games. She won a pair of MIAA championships in lacrosse and one in field hockey.
10 players (2 seniors, 0 juniors, 4 sophomores, 4 first years)
2 returning starters (6 or more starts in 2016): Gramigna, Granger
Every midfielder from last season is back -- and the two senior middies have a rare amount of experience, totaling 78 career games and 55 career starts. Madeleine Gramigna earned the team's captaincy with contributions that ranged from scoring (28 goals, third on the team and a career high) to getting draw controls (42, second on the team and tied for seventh in the Ivy League) to getting ground balls (21). She started all 16 games, a career high. Emily Granger also enjoyed a career year, setting highs for goals and points (14-3-17) while starting a career-high 12 games.
Four sophomore midfielders will look to make even bigger contributions in their second seasons. Barrett Carlson appeared in seven games (two starts) last year, scoring three goals. Lindsay Hogan appeared in a pair of games before suffering a season-ending injury. Yale's tallest player at six-feet tall, she was a high school All-American. Hannah Logan appeared in four games, scoring four goals on just six shots. Vanessa Yu appeared in a pair of games, getting her first career point with an assist.
Four first years will look to earn playing time in the midfield this season. Amanda Hartzell (Rye, N.Y.) led her high school team in scoring each of the past two seasons and totaled more than 200 career points. Sam Higgins (Shoreham, N.Y.) led her team in assists for two years and was a five-year varsity starter. Colleen Huffman (Glenview, Ill.) was a US Lacrosse All-American, helping her team to four state championships. Olivia Markert (Centreville, Va.) captained her team for two years and was All-6A State.
11 players (3 seniors, 2 juniors, 3 sophomores, 3 first years)
1 returning starter (6 or more starts in 2016): Hall
Defense is the area where the Bulldogs will need the most help from new contributors. They have lost four starters from last year's team to graduation, so new players must emerge in 2018. The options include a pair of seniors who have moved to defense. Emma Dunne, a former attacker, appeared in four games last season, scoring her first career goal. Taryn Gallagher appeared in six games as a midfielder last season before an injury ended her season. She has 10 career goals in 26 games.
Senior Cooper Hall remained one of the team's most reliable defenders last season, appearing in 14 games and starting 10. She totaled 17 ground balls and nine caused turnovers. She has 21 starts over the past two years.
Junior defender Keri Cavallo joined the lacrosse team last season, appearing in four games. She has been playing soccer for Yale for the past three seasons. Classmate Eliot Schulte looks to build on last season, when she got her first career caused turnover, draw control and ground ball.
The sophomore class includes three defenders who gained valuable experience last year. Hannah Burgess appeared in three games. Margaret Stover earned a start in the season opener, finishing the season with 10 games played and five starts. Julia Watt appeared in three games.
A trio of athletic first years will look to earn playing time on defense this year. Sofia Caro (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) was a first team Miami Herald honoree for two years. She captained the weightlifting team in addition to playing football. Kelsey Dunn (McLean, Va.) helped her team to a league championship all three years she played varsity, and the team also won one state championship. She also was an all-league selection in basketball. Emma Reilly (Manhasset, N.Y.) was part of a Class B county finalist run for her school in 2016, and was a two-time field hockey captain.
2 players (1 senior, 0 juniors, 0 sophomores, 1 first year)
1 returning starter (Marks)
Senior Sydney Marks brings two years of starting experience into her final season for the Bulldogs. She has played all 30 games over the past two seasons, totaling more than 1675:00 in goal. Last season she posted a .429 save percentage and had four games with 10 or more saves -- including a season-high 16 at Columbia. In her sophomore season she finished second in the Ivy League in saves (130). First year Amelia Drake (Morristown, N.J.) gives Yale another good option in goal, as she was a second team all-league selection last year and set her school's records for career saves and wins.
Yale opens the 2018 season Saturday at 1:00 p.m. vs. No. 24 Albany at Reese Stadium. The 2018 slate includes eight games against teams that made the NCAA tournament last season. Yale also has seven games against teams ranked in the top 25 of the IWLCA preseason poll: No. 6 Boston College, No. 9 Princeton, No. 12 Penn, No. 13 Cornell, No. 18 UMass, No. 19 Towson and No. 24 Albany.
Yale's 15 regular-season games include seven Ivy League games and eight non-league games. This is the ninth year for the Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament, in which the top four teams in the final standings play for the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.