Rosemont, Ill. – Maryland was the unanimous choice by the conference coaches as the preseason favorite to claim the 2016 Big Ten Championship in women’s lacrosse. The conference’s coaches voted in the preseason poll and selected three players from their own team to a Players to Watch list. The Terrapins were followed in the preseason poll by second-place Penn State, Northwestern in third place, fourth-place Ohio State and Michigan and Rutgers, who tied for fifth-place in the preseason poll.
Maryland claimed the inaugural Big Ten title and captured its 13th national championship last season, and is ranked No. 1 in the Lacrosse Magazine preseason poll. The Terrapins’ Players to Watch are midfielder Taylor Cummings, defender Alice Mercer and attacker Megan Whittle, who were all named to the inaugural All-Big Ten team in 2015. Cummings has won the Tewaaraton Award in each of the last two seasons and was named the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year in 2015. Mercer was also an Academic All-Big Ten selection.
Penn State made its 21st appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season after winning the inaugural Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 6 in the Lacrosse Magazine preseason poll. Penn State’s Players to Watch are attacker/midfielder Madison Carter, goalkeeper Emi Smith and midfielder/defender Abby Smucker. Smith and Smucker were both named to the All-Big Ten team and earned Academic All-Big Ten honors last season, while Smith earned Goaltender of the Year laurels.
Northwestern was picked to finish third after advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the 12th straight season in 2015. The Wildcats are ranked No. 5 in the Lacrosse Magazine preseason poll. Northwestern’s Players to Watch are midfielders Kaleigh Craig, Selena Lasota and Sheila Nesselbush. Lasota and Nesselbush both earned All-Big Ten honors last season, while Lasota was tabbed the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Craig and Nesselbush both claimed Academic All-Big Ten plaudits.
Ohio State secured its fourth NCAA Tournament bid in 2015 after winning 13 games for the second consecutive season. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 18 in the Lacrosse Magazine preseason poll. Ohio State’s Players to Watch feature attacker Cian Dabrowski, midfielder Christine Easton and attacker Rainey Hodgson, all of which were named Academic All-Big Ten last spring.
Michigan enters its third season as a Division I women’s lacrosse program in 2016. For the second straight year, Michigan’s Players to Watch are attacker Jess Angerman and midfielders Kim Coughlan and Anna Schueler. Angerman and Schueler combined to score 87 points last season, with Schueler also earning Academic All-Big Ten recognition.
The Scarlet Knights’ Players to Watch feature midfielder/defender Amanda Casten and midfielders Kristina Dunphey and Kristin Kocher. Dunphey scored 14 goals and added seven assists last season, while Casten recorded 15 ground balls. Kocher claimed Academic All-Big Ten honors.
Big Ten women's lacrosse features teams that have won 25 national championships and 21 of the 34 NCAA Championships, including 10 of the last 11. Maryland won its 13th national championship last year, and claimed seven straight from 1995 to 2001. Northwestern has won seven NCAA titles, highlighted by five consecutive from 2005 to 2009 and most recently in 2012. Penn State has earned five national championships, including NCAA titles in 1987 and 1989.
The 2016 Big Ten Women’s Lacrosse Tournament will be hosted by Northwestern from May 5-8. The tournament will include all six conference programs, with two quarterfinal matches on Thursday. The top two seeds will receive byes to Friday’s semifinals, followed by the championship match on Sunday.
The preseason poll and complete Players to Watch list can be found below.
2016 BIG TEN WOMEN’S LACROSSE PRESEASON POLL
(2) Penn State
(4) Ohio State
Unanimous preseason favorite listed in ALL CAPS
2016 BIG TEN WOMEN’S LACROSSE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Taylor Cummings, Sr., M, Maryland
Alice Mercer, Sr., D, Maryland
Megan Whittle, So., A, Maryland
Jess Angerman, Jr., A, Michigan
Kim Coughlan, Jr., M, Michigan
Anna Schueler, Jr., M, Michigan
Kaleigh Craig, Sr., M, Northwestern
Selena Lasota, So., M, Northwestern
Sheila Nesselbush, Jr., M, Northwestern
Cian Dabrowski, Sr., A, Ohio State
Christine Easton, Sr., M, Ohio State
Rainey Hodgson, Sr., A, Ohio State
Madison Carter, Fr., A/M, Penn State
Emi Smith, Sr., GK, Penn State
Abby Smucker, Jr., M/D, Penn State
Amanda Casten, So., M/D, Rutgers
Kristina Dunphey, Jr., M, Rutgers
Kristin Kocher, Sr., M, Rutgers