Players to Follow

Shannon Smith
Sr. | M/A | 5-6

Key Notes:
• Winner of both the 2011 Tewaaraton Award and Lacrosse Honda Sports Award as the nation's top player
• Led the nation in scoring with 128 points in 23 games
• MVP of the NCAA championship as well as the American Lacrosse Conference Championship

Becky Lynch
North Carolina
Sr. | A | 5-8

Key Notes:
• Named North Carolina team tri-captain for 2012
• Enters the season with 71 assists, on pace to become North Carolina's all-time assists leader
• Named a 2012 preseason second-team All-American

Katie Schwarzmann
Jr. | M | 5-4

Key Notes:
• 2011 NCAA Championship all-tournamnet team and All-ACC selection
• Led Maryland in goals with 65 last season
• Named IWLCA first-team All-American in 2011

Kitty Cullen
Jr. | A | 6-4

Key Notes:
• Named to three different All-America teams during her sophomore year
•  Was a goal-scoring machine last season with 77 goals in 20 games
• American Lacrosse Conference Player of the Year and All-ALC first team

Emma Hamm
Sr. | A | 5-9

Key Notes:
• Named a finalist for the Tewaaraton Trophy after leading the Blue Devils with 51 goals and 70 draw controls
• 70 draw controls in 2011 was a school single-season record, while 51 goals was the eighth-highest single-season total in Duke history


Keep an Eye on These Programs

Key Players (Yr., Pos.): Shannon Smith (Sr., A), Taylor Thornton (Jr., D), Alex Frank (Sr., M), Lacey Vigmostad (Sr., D), Brianne LoManto (Sr., G)

Noting the Wildcats:  To call Northwestern a dominate program would be an understatement; last season the Wildcats won their sixth national title in seven years. A majority of last year's championship roster returns and anything less then another championship appearance would be a disappointment. The 2011 Tewaaraton Trophy winner Shannon Smith returns to be the Wildcats' all-everything player. She is expected to be the leader of the attack and one of the hardest players in the nation to stop around the cage. Smith will be the centerpiece of the team's attack, but sophomores Kelly Rich and Kara Mupo will benefit from a year of experience and could also help shoulder the offensive burden for the Wildcats.

Northwestern features five preseason All-Americans -- Smith, Taylor Thornton, Alex Frank, Lacey Vigmostad and Brianne LoManto.

Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller is known within lacrosse circles for her innovative coaching style. The Wildcats are once again loaded with talent and she knows how to bring out the best in her team's abilities. Northwestern is the clear-cut No. 1 team until someone can knock them off their perch.

Key Players (Yr., Pos.,):
Karri Ellen Johnson (Sr., A), Katie Schwarzmann (Jr., M), Iliana Sanza (Jr., D), Brittany Dipper (Sr., G)  

Noting the Terrapins: Maryland head coach Cathy Reese, a four-time ACC Coach of the Year, heads into the 2012 season with six returning starters including four Inside Lacrosse preseason first-team All-Americans.

The Terps are ecstatic to have a healthy Karri Ellen Johnson back in the lineup in 2012. The senior captain and two-time IWLCA first-team All-American missed 12 games last season due to injury. She is poised to resume her vital role in Maryland's offense.

"She has such a presence on the field whether it's taking the draw and dominating the center of the field or being on offense," Reese said. "She is such a threat and someone who other teams really need to pay attention to. She's a fun player to watch play."

Insight from last year's 8-7 loss in the championship game gives Maryland plenty of motivation for the 2012 season.

But Reese and the Terps aren't looking back. Instead, the squad is shifting its focus to the task at hand.

"We want to get better every day we play. That's a goal that's never really changed for us," Reese said. "We want to play to compete every minute, in every opportunity we

North Carolina
Key Players (Yr., Pos.,):
Laura Zimmerman (Sr., M), Becky Lynch (Sr., A) Kara Cannizzaro (Jr., M), Sloane Serpe (So., D)

Noting the Tar Heels: North Carolina looks to build on its three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances as the Tar Heels eye the program’s first national championship.

North Carolina head coach Jenny Levy expects a couple players to fill the void left by the graduation of Corey Donohoe. Levy believes the key to the Tar Heels success will be how quickly they can replace Donohoe’s input on offense. The entire midfield unit will return in 2012, giving that group two consecutive years of playing together. Four-year starter Becky Lynch is one player expected to fill the shoes of Donohoe, and Lynch expects her to be one of the Tar Heel leaders this season. Abby Friend is coming off an outstanding freshman year and is expected to contribute even more in her sophomore campaign.

Defense is once again expected to be a Tar Heel trademark. Lauren Maksym returns to goal and will be the catalyst for the defense. The defense also returns three starters in the midfield.

UNC will also get a boost from the freshman class. The class was ranked fourth nationally, but Levy is trying to keep her enthusiasm under control. She knows that it will take time for the freshmen to mature and advance to the next level and this class is no different.

The Tar Heels placed four players on the preseason All-America team. Senior midfielder Laura Zimmerman grabbed first-team honors, senior attacker Becky Lynch and junior midfielder Kara Cannizzaro were on the second team and sophomore defender Sloane Serpe was on the third team.

Other Teams to Watch: Florida, Duke, Princeton, Stanford, Penn, Loyola, Virginia.


Contests to Look for in 2012

No. 1 Northwestern -- Feb. 19: at. No. 5 Duke April 13: vs. No. 3 North Carolina April 21: vs. No. 4 Florida April 28: vs. No. 10 Virginia

No. 2 Maryland -- Feb. 19: at No. 17 Penn State  Feb. 25: at No. 5 Duke March 30: at No. 11 Princeton  April 7: at No. 3 North Carolina 

No. 3 North Carolina -- March 3: vs. No. 11 Penn March 10: at No. 10 Virgina April 7: at No. 2 Maryland April 13: at No. 1 Northwestern 

No. 4 Florida -- March 7: at. No. 15 Georgetown March 24: at. No. 18 Ohio State April 1: vs. No. 17 Penn State April 21: at No. 1 Northwestern

No. 6 Stanford -- Feb. 18: at No. 20 Notre Dame Feb. 25: vs. No. 8 James Madison March 30: at No. 16 Albany April 20: at California 

All photos courtesy of respective school athletic departments.