Coral Shores High's girls lacrosse team opens its quest for its fifth consecutive district crown this week with an emphasis on defense.
Senior standouts Katharine Hamer and Amber Hanson, both major-college prospects, will anchor the defensive backfield while the Hurricanes work to build a new offense around senior Morgan Champagne.
The Lady Canes lost 2013's top scorers to graduation in Julia Lozano, the program's all-time leading scorer now at Stetson University, and Kaitlyn O'Leary. That team went 9-0 in district play and 9-3 overall.
"That is a lot of offense to make up for," said head coach Mark Hall, but he noted that with 44 players, the lacrosse Lady Canes have the deepest roster of any women's program at Coral Shores.
Champagne was named a top attacker last year with 13 goals and two assists.
"In addition to experienced veterans, the team has a great group of very athletic newcomers that are expected to learn the game quickly," Hall said.
For the first time since the women's lacrosse program was launched nine years ago, Coral Shores will field a junior-varsity team in addition to the varsity squad. Some Lady Canes now on JV could play their way up to varsity before the season ends, said Hall.
Hamer has formally committed to play for the University of Florida, ranked No. 5 nationally, next year. Hanson plans to join the University of Tampa squad.
Champagne this week accepted an academic scholarship to Cornell College of Iowa, which will field its first women's lacrosse program in her freshman season.
Other senior returners are Claire Brutger, Kelly Cassidy, Aimee Erickson and Amber Erickson.
Varsity veterans also include Ashley Beyer, Yuly Cabrera, Courtney Caputo, Amberlyn Casas, Mallory Eakin, Darian Gibson, Seanna Lindback, Katie McCormick, Taylor Petrusha, Laura Powers and Molly Welsh.
Added to the varsity roster were newcomers Jessica Butler, Jordyn Good, Mallory Husdson, Jill Preihs and Kelsey Volland.
In Florida, all 131 girls lacrosse programs play in a single division. The Canes return as defending champions of District 32, comprising Coral Shores, Killian, Palmer Trinity, Coral Reef and Palmetto.
Careni "Vee" Lopez, a former Coral Shores standout who played at Notre Dame College in Ohio, will help coach the Lady Canes along with longtime assistant coaches John Jarnagan and Cindy Hall.
Coral Shores opened the season Tuesday on the road against Ransom Everglades (results pending at press time), and will host Miami's Coral Reef High School on Thursday (originally set as a road game, the site was switched to Tavernier this week).
After two more road games next week, at Cardinal Gibbons and Palmetto, the Lady Canes plays a 1 p.m. March 1 home match against American Heritage of Plantation (JV at 11 a.m.).