Shea Dolce led Boston College to the national championship game as a freshman.

Super Sophomores: Top Second-Year Stars to Watch in D-I Women’s Lacrosse

For a while, post-pandemic rookies took a back seat to fifth years — particularly in 2021. The players who decided on a dime to extend their time in college for one last shot at conference and national glory took the lion’s share of headlines and playing time. Freshmen mostly watched from afar.

We’ve reached the point where this year’s seniors were freshmen in 2020, so that should slow down. It already has. While the transfer portal, seniors and fifth-year players are still undoubtedly significant factors, we’ve seen the emergence of more rookies in recent years. Last year saw freshmen standing out in major conferences after the graduations of a loaded senior class that included the likes of Charlotte North, Jamie Ortega, Taylor Moreno, Lauren Gilbert and other household names.

The youth movement wasn’t just limited to the ACC and Big Ten. Rookies in mid-major conferences also turned heads.

Coaches will tell you that you can’t teach experience, and some sophomores are returning with it in spades — with three years of eligibility left. It makes the long-term future of the college landscape fun to think about.

Here are some rookies from each conference that we’re excited to see shine as sophomores.

“Coaches will tell you that you can’t teach experience, and some sophomores are returning with it in spades.”


Camryn Callaghan, A, Cincinnati

The nation’s leading freshman scorer comes from a non-traditional power. Callaghan led all Division I rookies and was 26th overall in goals per game (3.11) last season, earning the AAC’s Rookie of the Year honor. Callaghan started all 15 games at attack, scoring in all but one contest and leading Cincy with 55 goals and 67 points. She put herself on the map early on with a program-record eight goals against eventual NCAA tournament team Marquette.

Maddie Epke, A, James Madison

Isabella Peterson draws the faceguard, but opponents will sleep on Maddie Epke at their own risk in 2024. The Virginia Sports Information Director Rookie of the Year and a second-team all-AAC selection, Epke was the only freshman starter for the Dukes during their inaugural season in the conference. She ranked fifth in the AAC in assists per game (1.27) and scored 17 times for James Madison, helping the Dukes win the AAC regular-season title. Epke was also crucial in gaining possessions, ranking third on the team with 72 draws. The Dukes will need her there this year, as draws leader Rachel Matey (91 DC) graduated.


Jane Trauger, A, Vermont

Jane Trauger led all conference rookies and ranked second on Vermont in goals (34), assists (10) and points (44). Trauger will once again be flanked by the program’s leading scorer, Ava Vasile (49 G, 9 A), now in her fifth year, and junior Maddie Erksine (29 G, 8 A), as the Catamounts look to make their third NCAA tournament appearance in a row.

Grace Cincebox, G, Albany

We’ll get to Shea Dolce of Boston College in a minute, but she wasn’t the only rookie goalie to spearhead a conference title run last season. Grace Cincebox did the same at Albany. While Cincebox’s numbers may not look the best at first glance (12.77 GAA, .393 SV%), her stat line when it mattered most was impressive. She made seven saves in Albany’s come-from-behind win over Virginia in the NCAA tournament and nine saves against Binghamton in the conference title-game win, Albany’s first since 2012.


Shea Dolce, GK, Boston College

There was a changing of the guard in the cage for Boston College midway through the season. Shea Dolce got the starting nod against Denver on March 19. The Eagles fell 13-8 — their last loss until falling in their sixth straight national title game appearance. Dolce replaced Rachel Hall, who helped BC win its first national championship in 2021. For her part, Dolce was crucial in the Eagles’ winning their first ACC tournament title, leading freshmen Division I goalies with an 8.84 goals-against average and a .457 save percentage.

Caroline Godine, A, North Carolina

You knew new stars would have to emerge for UNC following the Heels’ national title run in 2022. With Ortega, Scottie Rose Growney and Ally Mastroianni among the critical offensive graduations, Caitlyn Wurzburger was among the few “known” entities returning in 2023. A pair of freshmen, Caroline Godine and Marissa White, are now known heading into their sophomore campaigns. Godine gets the nod here for having a more balanced stat line (31 G, 24 A for Godine versus 46 G, 3 A for White), but both are ones to watch in 2024. How Godine will play with another young attacker in freshman Chloe Humphrey, the most coveted recruit in her class, remains to be seen — but it’s a good “problem” to have. It’s safe to say Jenny Levy won’t be fielding many questions about replacing anyone for the next three years.


Alexa Capozzoli, A, St. Joseph’s

Alexa Capozzoli, the A10 Rookie of the Year, ranked third on the Hawks in goals (26) and fourth in points (38). Capozzoli went on a tear in April, starting with a six-point (4 G, 2 A) performance in a win over then-No. 18 Princeton. She went on to score at least a hat trick in the next three contests, including three goals as the Hawks gave conference stalwart UMass a run for it in a 15-12 loss on April 22.

Allie Hartnett, M/D, Davidson

The lone rookie on the A-10 first team, Allie Hartnett scored 22 goals, four of the game-winning variety. Hartnett finished third on Davidson in ground balls (24). Though Richmond and UMass are the annual A-10 favorites, Davidson always looks like a worthy dark horse — and Hartnett’s return will once again have the program making a respectable case for that distinction. 


Lola Mancuso, A, Xavier

The Clemsons and Pitts of the world leaned into fifth-year players in their inaugural seasons. Xavier’s first season in program history saw the Musketeers have a roster of 20 freshmen. The emerging star? Conference Freshman of the Year Lola Mancuso. The rookie, out of the lauded Florida high school program American Heritage-Plantation, scored Xavier’s first-ever goal and went on to score 38 times. Mancuso found the back of the cage in every game, leading Big East rookies and ranking fourth among freshmen nationally in goals per game (2.71).

Ryan Dineen, A, Denver

Ryan Dineen caught our eye in Denver’s Big East championship game win over UConn. The Huskies were playing the then-undefeated Pios tough and were within two early in the second half. Dineen contributed two goals and two assists off the bench, including one of each in the final 30 minutes, to help Denver to an 11-6 win. Ultimately, Dineen was second on the team behind Julia Gilbert with 38 goals last season. Though Denver’s methodical offense took a backseat to its zone defense, head coach Liza Kelly bolstered the unit with a flurry of transfers in Middlebury attacker Jane Earley, Yale attacker Olivia Penoyer and Yale midfielder Payton Vaughn. Ryan will be able to learn from them — and benefit from their support — as she looks to become the future of the Pios’ attack.


Sophia Passa, A, Longwood

Longwood’s first-ever Big South Freshman of the Year, Sophia Passa netted four four-goal performances in conference action, including a six-goal effort against Wofford. Passa ranked third on the team in goals (28), points (38) and draws (27), serving as a bright spot for the 4-12 Lancers.

Lily Barger, D, Wofford 

Besides Passa, Barger was the only other Big South freshman named to an all-conference team, earning an honorable mention spot. A former USA Lacrosse All-American out of Weddington (N.C.), Barger transferred from Liberty, where she didn’t play in 2022. She sure played in 2023, starting all 17 games and ranking second on the team in ground balls (32) and caused turnovers (18).


Madison Taylor, A, Northwestern

Madison Taylor already needed a larger trophy case after the 2023 season. The Wantagh, N.Y., native and one-time recipient of the Paumanok Award honoring Long Island’s best senior was a key contributor on the nation’s top offense, starting all 22 games for the NCAA champion Wildcats. In an offense that flowed primarily through Tewaaraton winner Izzy Scane and finalist Erin Coykendall, Taylor poured in 53 goals and 17 assists. She also finished third on the team with 56 draw controls, ultimately winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Scane and Coykendall return for 2024, but Hailey Rhatigan (62 G, 11 A), who transferred from Mercer and finished third in scoring, saw her eligibility clock run out when the national championship game ended. It’s safe to assume Taylor will continue to contribute and represents the future when Scane and Coykendall hang up their Wildcats jerseys after this season.

Kori Edmonson, A, Maryland

A second-team all-conference pick, Kori Edmonson has the potential to be one of Maryland’s top offensive performers. As a rookie, Edmonson, who is on the USA Lacrosse U20 training team, finished second on the Terps in scoring with 41 goals and was a favorite target of Eloise Clevenger, who served as the Terps’ primary feeder. Edmonson also added six assists, 16 ground balls and 21 draws. Her offensive prowess will be crucial if the Terps are to make a return trip to the Final Four after missing it for the second time in three years (a rarity for the sport’s most decorated program). At times throughout the season, Maryland’s offense seemed to need more confidence or a player willing to go to the net in crucial moments. With a year of success under her belt and numbers to prove it, Edmonson has earned that confidence.


Jenika Cuocco, G, Drexel

The Goalkeeper of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the CAA, Jenika Cuocco made an immediate impact for the Dragons during her redshirt-freshman season. Cuocco finished third in Division I in save percentage (.532) and 13th in goals-against average (9.21).


Charlotte Hodgson, M, Harvard

The only freshman named to an all-Ivy team, Hodgson was an honorable mention selection in the Ancient Eight. Hodgson is a prime candidate to be more of a standout come the 2024 season after scoring 24 goals as a rookie. Her three-goal performance at Princeton, annually one of the conference’s top contenders, was her most impressive of the year.


Jenika Cuocco was the CAA Goalie of the Year and Rookie of the Year in 2023.


Mia Delmond, A, Quinnipiac

The MAAC’s top rookie, Mia Delmond was one of two first-year stars to be selected to an all-conference team, netting a second-team selection. Delmond started 16 games and played in 17 during her first year. She finished third on the team in goals (29) and points (34). She also scooped 20 ground balls.

Sydney Huhtala, D, Niagara

Yes, there are quite a few attackers on this list — 2023 was a standout year for them, with so many top scorers from 2022 gone. But Sydney Huhtala started what seems to be a promising career on defense for Niagara. The Baldwinsville, N.Y., product entered the school record book by causing a single-season mark of 41 turnovers. She also led the team with 45 goals, eight of which came in a conference tournament win over the Mount and was second with 39 draw controls. She earned MAAC all-rookie and second-team honors.


Mackenzie Blackwell, M, Eastern Michigan

EMU’s 2-14 record may not sing, but Mackenzie Blackwell may be one of the top rookies you weren’t watching in 2023. Opponents will be noting the true two-way middie on film heading into 2024. Blackwell stacked the stat sheet and was the conference leader in multiple statistical categories, like draws controls (83). She was second in draws per game (5.19) and led MAC rookies in goals (39) and points (41)

Zayda Crumpton, M, Kent State 

Jackie Wolford and Kenzie Sklar drew top defenders last season — and for good reason. The duo ranked in the top 10 nationally in goals per game. However, Zaydra Cumpton took advantage of the openings, finishing third on Kent State with 23 goals and fourth with 25 points. She led the Golden Flashes with 77 draws and 17 caused turnovers and was third with 36 ground balls.


Bella Fisher, A, Saint Francis

The NEC Rookie of the Year and an all-conference second-team pick, Bella Fisher set new Saint Francis freshman marks in goals (42) and assists (48). Fisher had six games with at least four goals or more and was critical in helping Saint Francis gain possession in the first place, ranking third on the team in draws (39).

Julia Trainor, M, LIU 

Though not named conference Rookie of the Year, Julia Trainor was the lone freshman on the NEC’s first team. She was a factor all over the field for the Sharks, leading the team in ground balls (30) and caused turnovers (18). Trainor also ranked in the top five for LIU in goals (22), assists (5), points (25) and draws (45).


Teagan Ng, A, Arizona State

The Pac-12 Freshman of the Year started all 17 games on attack for the Sun Devils, representing the future of a team that had lost more than a dozen players from the 2022 squad that made the Pac-12 final. Ng led conference freshmen with 30 goals and finished with 36 points, ranking third for ASU.


Brigid Duffy, M, Army 

Army’s rise in the national rankings and emergence as a potential future foil to Loyola’s reign over the Patriot League last season is bolstered by the fact that one of its star players was a freshman. Brigid Duffy was not only voted the top rookie player in the league but also became Army’s first-ever All-American. It was well deserved for the nation’s leading freshman scorer, who poured in 56 goals and set an Army single-season record with 81 points. She also finished fifth in the conference in draws (90) and led Army with 18 caused turnovers.

Ava Yovino, M, Navy

We clear the schedule for Army-Navy football. Start doing it for women’s lacrosse. The fact that Duffy’s biggest competition for Rookie of the Year in the Patriot League was a Mid was fun to watch. Yovino was the first Navy women’s player named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List as a freshman. Like Duffy, Yovino was a two-way force, leading Navy with 92 points and 50 assists to go along with 42 goals, 51 draws, 25 ground balls and 20 caused turnovers.

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