This year, the women’s lacrosse team will be looking to a large, talented group of seniors to help them stay “so sick” — its motto carried over from the 2004 season.

The Bulldogs return nine seniors from last year’s team, which went a sick 12-4 overall and 5-2 in conference play. In recent years, Yale has established itself as a contender for the Ivy League title. In 2003, the Elis shared the top spot with Princeton and Dartmouth. Last year, Yale finished third in the league behind the Tigers and the Big Green, and the Bulldogs are looking to the Class of 2005 to take them even higher.

“Our key returning players are our entire senior class, all of whom will be vital to our success,” Yale head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “They make up the nucleus of this team and will be counted upon to raise their level of play as well as those around them. They know what it takes to be successful and expect this season to be a memorable one.”

Captaining this year’s squad is veteran defender Kerry Docherty ’05, who started all of the Elis’ 16 games last spring. The team will lean on Docherty for her strength and positive attitude as the season progresses.

“She is a great leader because she’s very encouraging and she’s a person you can always go to,” defender Amanda Rich ’07 said. “She’s really there for the team. She never seems to get angry and she takes everything with a grain of salt. She helps to lift the morale of the team.”

The Class of 2004, though it only graduated three players, left some big shoes to fill on the offensive end. The team’s top two scorers and first-team all-Ivy picks, Miles Whitman and Sophie MeIniker — who combined to score 178 of the team’s 272 goals last season — will be sorely missed. In the absence of such strong players, the Elis have adjusted their attack and will rely on consistent team-oriented play to provide scoring opportunities.

“The loss of Miles and Sophie accounts for a lot of missing points,” O’Leary said. “But we are able to adjust by having every one of our attackers involved on the offense.”

Among those looking to step into the vacancies will be Katie Brownson ’05, the only senior attacker on this year’s team, and Carli Vogler ’06, who leads the returning attackers with four goals and four assists from the 2004 season. Also crucial to the attack’s success will be Lara MeIniker ’07, whose field vision and smart playing style will be great assets to the team.

Yale’s starting midfield remained intact following the 2004 graduation, and will return the dominant trio of Sarah Driscoll ’05, Katie Sargent ’05 and Aly Croffy ’05. The three midfielders were all among the top five scorers on last year’s team, and Sargent was a second-team all-Ivy selection last season.

“[The seniors] are great players on the field,” midfielder Jess Champion ’07 said. “They’ve been amazing leaders so far and they’ll continue to do that this season.”

On defense, four returning seniors — Docherty, Lisa Reindl, Meredith Mack and Kira Licata — are poised to make a huge impact this season. Reindl and Mack were consistent starters last season, and Licata saw playing time in all but one of the Bulldogs’ matchups. A slew of sophomore defenders, including Champion and Lindsay Levin, will add depth to the Elis’ lineup.

This year’s rookies are ready to immediately vie with the upperclassmen for playing time. The Elis will look to attacker Lauren Taylor ’08, a high school Academic All-American, to contribute right away to the team’s offensive efforts. Katherine Peetz ’08 and Tucker Marrison ’08 are both strong, quick midfielders who will help to energize the Bulldogs’ scoring attempts. In goal, Ellen Cameron ’08 will be a contender for the starting position, O’Leary said.

The upperclassmen are also looking forward to the potential contributions of the Class of 2008.

“I think [the freshmen] will have a huge impact,” Mack said. “There are some dynamic attackers, including Lauren Taylor, who has an amazing shot and is a really great player. I’m also really excited about the goalie, Ellen Cameron, who is tall and quick, and comes out of the cage a lot.”