“The team is going to live or die on its experience and leadership,” said head coach Jim Wendling.
In addition to the seniors, Canisius returns nine other players who played in 10 or more games last season.
Preseason All-MAAC selection Brianna Smith highlights the Griffs front line. She led the team in goals (11), points (22), shots (57), shot percentage (.193) and game-winning goals (3) in 2012. Wendling is expecting more of the same in 2013, however he’s also relying on the All-MAAC forward to play a bigger role in setting up her teammates.
“I think [Smith] is the best forward in our conference this year,” Wendling said. “She has to score. We won’t be successful without her scoring 14 or 15 goals. She also has to get five or six assists.”
Also playing a big role up front with Smith will be junior Mallory Illsley. Wendling’s expecting her speed to cause some problems for opposing defenses. Illsley saw action in all 19 games last season, recording two assists and 13 shots.
“Illsley will cause defenders headaches with her speed,” Wendling said. “She needs to score for us.”
In addition to the two veterans on the front line, sophomore Brittany Krause could also factor in as a forward for Canisius. Her versatility will allow her to play either as a forward or midfielder. Freshman Kathleen Lawver is expected to see action up front for the Griffs as well.
The midfield will also rely on veteran presence, with seniors Katie Griffin and Kelly McMahon anchoring the Griffs. Each scored a goal in 2012, but Wendling is hoping to see each player play a bigger role in the offensive attack in 2013.
“We need four or five goals out of each Katie Griffin and Kelly McMahon in order to be successful this season,” Wendling said. “[McMahon] is the key to our attack because of her technical skill and distribution and needs to use that to give us opportunities. [Griffin] is a more physical presence on the field and is able to win 50-50 balls for us.”
Maria Nelms is another upperclassman who will play a big role in the Canisius midfield, the junior played in 19 games last season, starting 12. Nelms notched a goal and an assist in 2012.
Sophomore Brittany Bowen will serve as the Griffs center-mid, and her importance to the team’s midfield was on display during its exhibition game against Buffalo.
“She’s playing really, really well,” Wendling said. “When she had to step out of our scrimmage we lost the midfield area. She’s going to really be an important factor.”
The newcomers who could make an impact in the midfield are Katie Felegy and Sabrina Fitzgerald.
Canisius’ back line will host a number of players with experience in 2013. Six players who played at least 14 games last season return to the Griffs’ defense.
Senior Adrianna Suk is the only senior of the group and she will be relied on as the center back. Suk started 12 of the 16 games she saw action in last season.
“[Suk] is someone who definitely has to step up as a senior,” Wendling said. “We need her to have a bigger presence physically on the field as well as vocally demanding presence. She’s got great size, good speed and is good with the ball.”
Although she’s just a junior, Jenny Piaggione has played in all but two contests since arriving on campus, and will serve as the other veteran defender for the Griffs.
To compliment Suk will be a pair of sophomores who played big roles as freshmen in 2012. Alexis Kroese and Tara McPherson both project to be starters for the Griffs. They started 12 and 13 games respectively in 2012.
Freshman Callie Good will play in the rotation as well for Canisius.
“She’s going to see a lot of minutes depending on how the seniors play,” Wendling said. “She can play a back, she can play outside mid, she can play defensive mid. She’s really having a good preseason.”
Senior Megan Tock figures to be the primary goaltender for the Griffs for the second season. She’s just 70 minutes shy of 2,000 in her career, with 1,294 of those minutes coming in 2012. Tock has a 2.14 goals against average and a .754 save percentage in her career.
“Our team starts with Megan Tock,” Wendling said. “She’s the key to our defense and she has to make the saves that she’s capable of making. She’s very athletic and very quick. I think she’s one of the best goaltenders in our conference when she’s playing at her best.”
Brigid St. Leger and Kailee DeFranks return to back Tock up, as well as freshman Allison Maynard.
Canisius opens its season Friday at Cleveland State at 7 p.m.