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Clarkson laxwomen look to build on last season’s improvement

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POTSDAM - Last year the Clarkson University women’s lacrosse team broke through with its first-ever winning season in the program’s history in a big way, not achieving the mark by a single victory, but by posting a .688 winning percentage with 11 victories in 16 games.

This year’s version of the Golden Knights will be very different from last season, as numerous key players graduated, but the fact that Clarkson is in the middle of the pack rather than at the bottom of the Liberty League Pre-Season Coaches’ Poll shows that the team is gaining respect amongst its peers.

The Golden Knights have been chosen seventh in the 10-team Liberty League, the same spot that the team finished in last year with a record of 4-5 in conference games, the most wins the squad had ever mustered in a single league campaign.

Head coach Ben Gaebel is entering his second season guiding the Knights after being chosen as an interim head coach in the middle of last year. Gaebel’s style worked well for Clarkson, as the team posted a program-record 203 goals (12.7 gpg). Much of that fire power has graduated, including the program’s top two all-time leading scorers in Alyssa Cristaldi and Katie VanDeValk, but now several other players who were simply waiting in the wings will have the chance to challenge those marks this coming season.

The key returning player for Clarkson is sophomore Christine Wright (Watertown, NY), a Liberty League Second-Team All-Star and the Liberty League Rookie of the Year. The first-year midfielder was a dominant force in several facets of the game, ranking in the top five in the conference in assists per game (1.38), points per game (4.50) and draw controls per game (4.25). Wright also set school first-year records for goals (50) and points (72) while tying the single-season assists mark of 22.

Senior goalkeeper Kara DiNatale (Auburn, NH) will be counted on to limit the opposition’s offense once again in 2014 after ranking fifth in the Liberty League in goals against average (10.71 gpg), but has a more than capable coach in Gaebel, a National Championship winning goalkeeper at Cortland. Helping to ease the defensive pressure off DiNatale, the defense has numerous players returning from last year’s squad, including senior captain Adrienne Walker (Syracuse, NY) and sophomores Emma Jeffery (Baldwinsville, NY), who started all 16 games last year, and Hanna Gleason (Massena, NY).

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