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Lacrosse Preview 2014: ‘Exciting’ younger Hamburg squad not expected to miss a beat

NOW A GREAT DANE — After a noteworthy freshman season, Claire Hermann will step into a bigger role for Hamburg. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.

The Hamburg girls lacrosse team will be a much younger group than the past two that have won sectional titles.

So why is Katy Ryan as excited as she has been, during her four seasons as head coach?

In spite of being less experienced, she said that she can already tell this team is just as hungry to win another championship.

“I like it. I really have to focus in on getting the kids not as familiar prepared. It’s a good refresher,” said Ryan, whose team finished 18 – 2, falling in the Far West Regional round. “I enjoy the challenge of trying to get everyone to click.”

The Bulldogs bring back four starters from last season, one of whom is Niagara University-bound Jill Ford, who will guide the midfield, after putting up 52 goals during an All-Western New York First Team season.

“Jill is phenomenal and is so talented. She’s so good on both offense and defense,” Ryan said, adding that Ford and Hallie Fiore are the last of her original players since the coach’s first season heading Hamburg.

“Jill, Hallie and I were talking about how they were so nervous as freshman on the varsity and now look at them,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s been four years.”

Senior midfielder Kaley Reardon and sophomore attacker Claire Hermann, who has already being recruited by colleges, are the team’s other returning starters. Hermann finished third on the team last season with 34 goals. Senior Lexi Higgins will also be counted on for her leadership, as well as in heading the defense.

Hamburg is tasked with filling many roles, including those of All-WNY First Team selections Taylor Wolf, who is now playing at Niagara, and Meghan Mikolajek, who is also playing Division I, at Albany. First Team all-division players Hannah Crean and goalie Lauryn Courteau were also among the players lost on defense.

Ryan also said she expects a big season from senior Sam Eberle on attack, junior midfielder Hannah Fredrikson and the team’s top defensive midfielder Carolyn Connors, who, as a junior, already verbally committed to play at Canisius College. Junior Rachel Arana should also contribute on attack and in the midfield.
NOW A GREAT DANE — Niagara-bound midfielder Jill Ford should be one of WNY’s top players. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.

The six-player senior class is rounded out by Erika Arana, and defender Abbey Piccillo is the other of only four juniors on the team. On a team of 17 players, four are sophomores and three are freshmen. Among them are sophomore returning attackers Jade Hoch and Amanda Izzo.

Taking over in goal for longtime varsity goalie Courteau will be freshman Paige Hafner, who Ryan described as a firecracker who is quick with athleticism.

“There’s something new every day,” Ryan said. “I’m trying to get a feel for this team’s dynamic. They’re also excited to be here. It’s a good feeling to know the team wants to work. That’s been a huge part of our past success and should continue to be in the future.”

Ryan welcomed aboard to the coaching staff former Frontier assistant Meg Portka, who once played at Canisius College, and will now be in the same role at Hamburg. In addition, Kate Faas, who played for a national championship-winning team at Maryland, will coach the junior varsity. All three coaches played at the Division I level.

The Bulldogs will open the season playing upstart cross-town rival Eden at home on Thursday, March 27. They will move up, along with West Seneca East, to play in the large schools ECIC division during the regular season and than defend their title in Class B for the playoffs.
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