LEWISTON, Maine -- When the Bates women's lacrosse team bowed out of the NCAA Tournament last May with a loss to Springfield at Garcelon Field by the eye-blinking score of 3-2, the careers of the greatest offensive and defensive players in the team's history came to an close.
It's true: the 2017 Bobcats will no longer have the services of two-time All-America attacker Moriah Greenstein and three-time All-America goalie Hannah Jeffery. Whatever will they do?
As it turns out, no one inside the program is panicking or particularly worried.
"If you're an outsider to the team and aren't with us day to day, you can look at past statistics and say 'They lost some impactful kids,' and there's no way I can say we didn't," said 12th-year head coach Brett Allen. "But I think we're getting to the point in this program where it's easier to sustain some of the things we've accomplished year to year."
Bates, ranked No. 12 in the IWLCA preseason Division III poll and now ranked 13th, does return a great deal of talent, and Allen loves what he sees from his first-year class of players, too. At a recent scrimmage at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the Bobcats competed very well, according to Allen, confirming the quiet confidence Bates has heading into their official schedule. Catholic is currently ranked sixth in Division III, following an upset victory over No. 7 Salisbury.
"That day gave us confidence, and it brought us into the present really quickly," said Allen.
While it remains to be seen who will start and play where in Bates' season opener, to be played at home Wednesday at 5pm against Wellesley, it's clear that the team's mainstays are changing. Rather than the strength of the team being bookends on the field, as Greenstein and Jeffery essentially were, Bates will rely upon its wholly intact midfield, at least in the early going. Senior captains Drew Barry (Portland, Maine) and Kaileigh Maguire (Sudbury, Mass.) join juniors Camille Belletete (Jaffrey, N.H.) and Allison Dewey (Vergennes, Vt.) in the middle. All four are proven difference-makers at both ends of the field and in transition.
Bates' defense, which led the NESCAC last season, will be anchored by impressive sophomore goalie Eliza Statile (Ipswich, Mass.) and senior captain Erin Shea (Marshfield, Mass.), an All-Region selection last year along with Belletete and Dewey.
The remainder of Bates' starters on both defense and on attack was still unknown 48 hours before the Wellesley game. But it's certain that Bates' returners are motivated to expand upon last season's success and perhaps avenge the disappointing first-round NCAA loss last May. And the talent of the Bobcats' rookie class should become apparent quickly enough.
"We really like our team," Allen said. "There's maybe a little more uncertainty to how we're going to play, but I don't think we're nervous about talent, ability or work ethic."