MANCHESTER -- Burr and Burton girls lacrosse coach Dave Miceli stood on the turf inside Riley Rink on Tuesday, giving instruction while the team was running drills.
The practice was just one of several the Bulldogs have had in a little over a week and one of the few remaining before the team's season opener at Middlebury this Saturday.
After a 17-10 loss to Rice in last year's Division II finals, the Bulldogs - who were 14-2-0 last season - have the bulk of their squad returning this year. Eleven seniors comprise more than half the roster and of the 20 member team, 18 are returning from last season.
The high number of returning players on this year's squad has made things easier, particularly on the defensive end, Miceli said.
"Our defense is probably three weeks ahead of where it typically is at this time of the year and that's just experience," said Miceli. "And then the senior leadership. We've got ten girls who have been involved with the program, understand the program and really feel that they want to not only make the program theirs, but it's important to pass that program down to the younger kids."
One change that has occurred is the move from DII up to DI. In their first three games, BBA will face DI State Champions South Burlington, the runner up - Middlebury - and rival Mount Anthony who went to the DI semi-finals last season. However, despite the move up to DI, Miceli does not believe it will have a dramatic impact during the regular season.
"The jump from DII to DI really affects who we play in the postseason more than it affects the regular season. We played Middlebury and South Burlington and Mount Anthony and Rutland and Brattleboro last year," said Miceli. "So, in that sense the game schedule hasn't really changed in Vermont."
Despite losing Cara Corvino, Morgan Crabtree, Jessica Dorr, Rory Halligan and Kathleen Montague to graduation last year. Miceli said that he believes the team is in a good place this year.
"I think Burr and Burton lacrosse is in a really fortunate position. Equinox lacrosse does a tremendous job of sending us great athletes. They do a nice job of teaching the game of lacrosse," said Miceli. "There's a long line of these tremendous players [that] leave and it creates space for other players to grow in those positions. There are a number of girls ready to step up and assume those leadership roles."
While all of last year's seniors were good individual skill players in their own right, Miceli said it is their leadership that will be missed the most. However, Miceli said there are several girls ready to step into that role this season.
"They are all tremendous athletes in their own right, excellent lacrosse players, they have a high lacrosse IQ, they've been in the program for four years, they know how things are done here and they're ready to pass on those traditions for the younger girls and really set the tone for what the team should look like," Miceli said.
The strengths of this year's team Miceli said are their speed, their "lacrosse IQ" and their ability to make good decisions with the ball.
Coming into this season Miceli said he expects Morgan Bazyk and Hayley Sabol to be significant contributers again. Miceli said that Katy Jones and Lauren Miskovsky will also be offensive threats this year as will Ryder Ferrone and Caroline Kepler. However, he said he also anticipates greater contributions from Meghan Grabher, as well as Lucy and Aggie Bisselle.
Brianna Brockett, Hannah Gianotti, Mary Leech, Ryder Ferrone, Maggie Penkoff, and Brinn Dilworth will anchor the team's defense.
Going into the season, Miceli said that he expects senior Casey Apps and junior Lauren MacKenzie to split time between the pipes like they did last season.
"We'll go through the first four games or so and see who's where and if we have any indication that one goalie is stronger than another then we'll have a starting goalie and a backup goalie," said Miceli. "If they turn out to be more or less equal I'm comfortable splitting time. We certainly did well last year doing that."
Cat Greenberg, Devon Thiele, Caitlin Merrill, and Jessie Forstmann round out the roster.
Miceli also has new assistant coaches this year in Meredith Fleury and Sarah Templeton.