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Mount Mercy Academy ready to open lacrosse and softball seasons

Mar 29, 2016 | Sports Scene

Just three years ago, Mount Mercy Academy’s lacrosse team struggled to win games, but this season the team has set its sights on the league championship. The team has shown dramatic improvement under the direction of coaches Melissa Graham and Beth Schroeder.

“We expect to compete for a championship. We have the experience, the drive, and the potential to do just that – it will come down to how we compete as a team,” Graham remarked.

The team expects tough competition from defending champion Mount Saint Mary as well as perennial rival Nardin, but also knows that they have to bring their best game against determined opponents such as Saint Mary’s of Lancaster and Buffalo Seminary.

The members of the team have dedicated themselves to improving their game. “The strength of our team is its commitment to getting better. They’ve been playing together for over 16 months straight, making the commitment to winter and summer leagues. We have strong seniors and an overall athletic team that wants to be successful. We also have one of the best goalies in the league,” Graham stated.

Senior midfielder Brigid Keane (Buffalo), a returning All-Catholic selection, is expected to lead the team again this season. She paced the team in goals and ground balls last season. Junior goalie Brianna Gawronski (Dunkirk), an ice hockey all-star goalie, returns to the lacrosse goal cage for the second year. She had the highest save percentage in the league last year. 

Juniors Brigid Lempko (West Seneca) and Arielle Brown (Buffalo) are expected to contribute to the offensive output as the top returning attacks. Senior Stephanie Evaniak (Buffalo) and junior Anne Bamrick (Buffalo) are being counted on to anchor the defense; although Bamrick’s offensive improvement has shifted her position to midfield.

The team opens its 2016 season on April 6 against Immaculata Academy. The team’s home opener will be on April 12 against Mount Saint Mary at Pierce Field. 

“The key to a successful season will be having a balanced scoring attack and continuing to improve our defensive knowledge. We need to be confident in our abilities and trust each other. We have a small team but all the returners have experience on the field and have gotten better,” Graham concluded.

After missing out on the playoffs last year on a tie breaker, the Mount Mercy varsity softball team is primed to return to the playoffs in 2016. With the experience gained by last year’s team and the addition of some talented newcomers, Coach Doug Webster, in his sixth season as the coach, is optimistic about this season’s team.

Leading the team will be four-year senior starters Olivia Balys (Orchard Park) and Catherine Rogers (Cheektowaga). Both players have seen extensive action in the infield and are expected to continue in the infield this season. Webster expects strong leadership from the pair. He is also counting on two juniors; Beth Hughes (Orchard Park), a three-year starter, returns to centerfield and Mallory Ashe (Buffalo) returns to the varsity for a second year, splitting her time between first base and pitching.

“I expect pitching to be our strength this year. We go into every season expecting to compete and every game expecting to win so our expectations are always high. If our pitchers have a strong season on the mound we will be very competitive in the league,” Webster remarked. 

Headlining the pitching position this season is a pair of sophomore transfers. Laura Gregory (Buffalo) joins the team after pitching for Hutch-Tech and Allison Rogowski (West Seneca) pitched for West Seneca East last year. Also expected to see some action on the mound are Ashe and freshman Megan Cycon (West Seneca).

Four sophomores, Emily Lewandowski (East Aurora), Mary Bala (West Seneca), Chloe Manikowski (Depew) and Fiona Danahy (Buffalo) saw considerable action last season and Webster is counting on these four players to once again play an important role on the team. Taylor Hoch (East Aurora), a sophomore transfer from Iroquois, is also being counted on to play an important role on the team.

Rounding out the roster are three outfielders, senior Sarah O’Shei (West Seneca), junior Emily Diebold (Lancaster) and sophomore Emma Fredo (Buffalo).

Webster expects Sacred Heart to be the team to beat again this season. He also noted that St. Mary’s of Lancaster won the championship last year and their starting pitcher is returning so he expects them to be a challenge as well.

Webster is counting on his young team coming together and maturing quickly. “Of the 15 players on our roster, nine of them are freshmen or sophomores. Obviously we will need them to step up big for us and produce if we are going to be successful,” Webster concluded.

The Magic open their season on April 6 with a non-league contest at Fredonia and opens its home season on April 12 against Springville at Cazenovia Park.

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