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As the 2017 Lebanon County lacrosse season gets underway this week, here's a look at the story lines affecting each team.
Coach: Dan Stoddard, 1st season
Last year's record: 4-14
Key returners/upperclassmen: Cailie Bernard, Sr., F; Riley Blatt, Sr., F; Abbey Castor, Sr., M; Sarah Dacko, Sr., D,M; Jaden Keefer, Sr., M,F; Annika Neufeld-Kreider, Sr., D,M; Serena Rodriguez, Sr., G; Avery Stoddard, Sr., M/F; Margaret Zug, Sr., D,M; Gracen Donmoyer, Jr., M,F; Olivia Hains, Jr., M,F; Abbey Hartman, Jr., D,M; Maya Reed, Jr., D,M; Kathleen Steckbeck, Jr., M,F; Emily Curtin, So., M,F; Kayla Flowers, So, M,F; Emma Holzman, So., D,M; Hanna Lewis, So., M,F; Hannah Shirey, So., D,M.
Key newcomers: Emily Beard, Fr., M; Brooke Boyd, Fr., M,F; Maria Brandt, Fr., M; Caroline Manbeck, Fr., M,F.
Season outlook: This is going to be perhaps the most unique and challenging season the Falcons will face in program history - having a first-year coach with little to no knowledge of the sport.
"The reason I'm coaching is they couldn't find a coach," Stoddard said. "So they were going to cancel the program, and my daughter's (Avery) a senior. So it's a selfish reason."
Though having very little familiarity with the sport doesn't help, Stoddard doesn't come into this situation completely blind-sided, having at least coached at the high school level before as a wrestling coach.
But its still going to be an uphill battle.
"I think planning the practices and understanding how they're going to move helps. I've done that before," he said. "But this is a different animal. I consider myself a wrestling coach, rather than a girls lacrosse coach. I usually try to get under guys' skin and fired up, because angry wrestlers wrestle better. But angry lacrosse players don't necessarily play better."
Stoddard does have a few things on his side when it comes to the actual game, having at least brought in an assistant coach, Jess Martin, who's played the sport, and better yet, in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
"She played goalie at Conestoga Valley," Stoddard said. "She's been a big help. Without her, this would be a lot worse."
And through his daughter's career, Stoddard has developed a relationship with some key returners, which could also be beneficial.
"I know all the seniors because we started the middle school program," he said. "But I still don't know lacrosse well, so we'll see how it goes. While I watched the game, I didn't really understand the rules. But you take it day-by-day. I try to come up with a practice plan everyday and follow through. Games will be the same way. But the girls are in great spirits. They seem ready to go."
Coach: Will Folk, 1st season
Last year's record: 6-11
Key returners: Mitch Tice, Sr., Attack; Hunter Craig, Sr., Attack; Ray Moore, Sr., Midfield/SSDM; Colin May, Sr., Midfield; Gage Ebersole, Sr., Midfield/Face Off; John Lux, So., Attack.
Key newcomers: Zak Kinard, Jr., Midfield & Fogo; TJ Moore, Fr., G.
Season outlook: The boys program also begins a new era, but in much more favorable circumstances, as Folk moves up to head coach after five years on the coaching staff.
"The transition's going pretty well," Folk said. "The guys already know me and kind of had an idea of what I expect out of them. It makes it easier, especially for the seniors who have been with me all four years. That helps getting the younger guys to understand what I'm looking for."
And with a majority of the key returners being on the attack, Folk looks to take full advantage of it to establish his coaching philosophy.
"The key focus is playing as a team. If we do that, the wins will come," Folk said. "I'm a really big advocate of movement offensively. We want to keep the ball spinning. Defensively, everyone inside has to help each other."
Palmyra Cougars boys
Coach: Dave Ondrusek
Last year's record: 13-5
Key returners: Anthony Bressi, Sr., G; Pete Robertson, Sr., M; Nate Hawkins, Sr., M; Cam Ihli, Sr., D; Kyle Nolen, Sr., attack; Ethan Gain, Sr., attack.
Season outlook: If any team is chomping at the bit to start the season, it's the Cougars. Last year's most successful season in program history - in Ondrusek's first season - included winning a program-high 13 games, leading to their first trip to the district playoffs.
Now, it's time to take the next step.
"We need to build upon the success we had last year," Ondrusek said. "I want to see us continue to come together as a team, while also expanding the roles of our younger players."
Palmyra's off to a roaring start after a 17-4 win over Northern York in Tuesday's season opener.
Palmyra Cougars girls
Coach: Jennifer Lutz, 6th season
Last year's record: 9-8
Key returners: Katlyn Mark, Sr., C/DW; Cheyenne Sprecher, Sr., A; Felicia Miller, Jr., D; Gabby Corricelli, Jr., A; Paige Frye, Jr., A; Nikki Bowman, Jr., AW; Hannah Marx, Sr.,A; Clare Krikorian, Sr., D.
Key newcomers: Camdin Carpenter, So., D; Kayley McIntyre, So. D; Megan Early, Jr., DW; Makayla Pertino, So., G.
Season outlook: After seeing some improvement last season, Lutz says her teams needs to continue to improve their skills and game strategy, especially after losing some key pieces.
"We graduated three key members in our defensive unit in goalie Riley Cook, Carli Herman and Hailey Ebersole, and our main offensive threat, Kiley Gallagher," Lutz said. "This season we will be look to develop our defensive game and create a well-rounded offense."
The Cougars look to lean on Sprecher, who was last year's top scorer, including tallying her 100th career goal.