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H.S. Girls Lacrosse: Strong returning core gives Hamburg edge in defending title

Hamburg senior Megan Mikolajek is one of last season’s top scorers returning to help attempt defend the Class B title. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
Hamburg’s numbers may have shrunk this season to 16 players, but there may be as much talent throughout this Bulldogs’ roster as any other team in program history.

Returning from helping Hamburg win a Section VI title last season is three of the team’s top four scorers, a third-year starter and workhorse in goal and a group of players waiting to make their mark.

Among this smaller group, Hamburg’s third-year head coach Katy Ryan believes she has the equivalent of 15 midfielders, all of whom are dynamic players with the ability to play anywhere on the field.

“I only have 16 kids but everyone one of them is so skilled so everyone should get playing time,” Ryan said. “All of them can throw and catch with both hands and be plugged in anywhere. I feel very fortunate; it’s not very often you have that in a team.”

Hamburg’s top returning players are its top three snipers on offense — Division I-bound Megan Mikolajek and Taylor Wolf, each of whom scored five times in Hamburg’s Class B title-winning game, and highly-recruited junior Jill Ford.

Mikolajek, who will play at the University of Albany, is an elusive scorer who will also be key on draws this year, while Wolf, who’s set to play at Niagara University, is an imposing force, who’s difficult to stop and very god with both hands, according to Ryan.

Ford, who’s being looked at by many college suitors, will be a threat from the midfield with her versatility, vision and speed. The basketball team’s starting point guard will play a similar role for lacrosse.

The only player Ryan does not consider a midfielder is for good reason. Lauryn Courteau will be back in net for Hamburg after playing every minute of every game over the past two years. In that time, she’s only lost seven games.

“That speaks to her ability and work ethic,” Ryan noted. “She’s our unsung hero.”

Julia Higgins will serve as the “backbone” of the defense in her third season with the varsity, while Hannah Crean will go from playing on the backline to using her vision and good shot in more of an offensive role in the middle.

Gina Abalone, who will play at Tiffin University next year, is expected to make an impact on the attack after developing her game in the offseason. Also looking to contribute after improving in the offseason is fellow senior Christie Nolan.

The seven upperclassmen hold a special place in Ryan’s heart, since it’s her first class of seniors that she’s seen through since many of them began on the varsity as sophomores.

She also expects junior Haley Fiore to make an impact as a defensive midfielder while also becoming an offensive threat, and newcomer Claire Hermann, a skillful and savvy attacker, to battle for a starting spot.

After back-to-back games with West Seneca West and East on April 10 and 11, Hamburg will host Syracuse-area Auburn on Saturday, April 13. The Bulldogs will also play Class A champion Lancaster on April 18 and A runner-up Frontier (May 9).

“We have a refuse to lose mentality,” said Ryan, whose team finished 16-4 last season. “They know what is at stake. Just because you win a championship, doesn’t mean it’s just handed to you the next year. These girls are willing to fight for it.”

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