Now in its fourth season of existence, the Chambersburg girls lacrosse program has been on an upward trajectory, going from one win in its inaugural season to two the next year and five last year.
With plenty of firepower returning, it's possible the Trojans could add to their win total this spring. The team opens its season Thursday at home vs. New Oxford.
"There are teams we play that have been established for quite a while now that we may not be able to beat yet," Chambersburg coach Katie Feairheller said. "But there are teams in the middle of the league that we can be competitive with. We can play up to their level and those might be winnable. There are a couple of teams we lost to last year that we might be able to beat, and that could get us up to fourth or fifth in the conference."
The main reason for the optimism is that the Trojans should be able to score goals.
Abby Wilmot, the top scorer last year with 34 goals and five assists, has graduated. But returners Kendyl Stewart (24 goals, 2 assists), Liza Ernst (22 goals) and Avery Rife (20 goals, 1 assist) combined for 66 goals, and other returning starters scored 11 more.
"We feel more confident this year," Stewart said about the potential for a strong offense, "because we're more comfortable with each other as teammates. We're more familiar working together."
Stewart, Maggie Nichols (5 goals, 2 assists) and Kaylea Garman (4 goals) will be three of the four attackers, while Ernst, Rife and Hannah Raines (3 goals) will man the midfield.
Feairheller said, "I think midfield is the strength of the team. We have Liza and Avery back and we have some good newcomers who are working in. They are good athletes who have that natural sense of knowing where to go."
Nichols is moving up top from midfield, and Garman has shifted forward from the defense.
"A lot of the younger players start playing defense and then get pushed up as their skills improve," Feairheller said.
On defense, the veteran is Madison Schmus, and she'll be joined by Beatrice Schellhase and Mackenzie Miller, plus one more. In goal will be Makenna Robertson, while Micaela Champion also expects to see some time.
Feairheller said, "We definitely have a lot more athleticism on the team than we did before, but in terms of experience, losing a player like Abby, with all of her knowledge, will make a difference. Most of our girls have only played lacrosse for two or three years, or even two weeks in some cases."
"It can be a little frustrating when we get new players who are starting from scratch," Stewart said, "but they're working well with the people who have played, and some of them are going to help us."
The girls program is starting a youth team for sixth- through eighth-graders for the first time this year, which will mean girls with more experience will eventually work their way up to varsity.
Feairheller said, "As it is now, some girls who play other sports with our players decided they want to try lacrosse, or they'll be asked by our players. And there is a little recruiting, too."
Notes: Wilmot is playing now at Nyack, while Emily Glennon is playing at St. Thomas Aquinas ... Chambersburg graduated eight seniors last year ... The Trojans play nine of their 16 games at home ... Only two of the current projected starters are seniors.
Trojans at a glance
Coach: Katie Feairheller, 3rd year, 7-27.
Last year: 5-12 (2-8 Mid Penn Conference).
Returning starters: Kendyl Stewart (sr., att), Liza Ernst (jr., mid), Avrey Rife (jr., mid), Kaylea Garman (jr., att/def), Maggie Nichols (sr., att), Madison Schmus (jr., def).
Other top players: Hannah Raines (so., mid), Beatrice Schellhase (so., def), Mackenzie Miller (so., mid/def), Makenna Robertson (jr., goalie), Micaela Champion (so., def), Rachel Dusman (so., mid), Courtney Kirby (fr., mid).
Season opener: Thursday, at home vs. New Oxford, 7.