With a 2009 season hindered by injuries and illness now behind them, the women’s lacrosse team is excited to turn things around this spring.

In head coach Anne Phillips’ second season with the Bulldogs, the team has all but two starters returning, in addition to six freshmen joining the team.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”7824″ ]

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”7825″ ]

“We graduated only two starters from the 2009 team, and we are pleased with the progress that the returning team members have made since the end of last season,” Phillips said.

Coming off of a 5–11 (1–6 Ivy) 2009 season, the Elis, captained by Claire Eliasberg ’10, are heading into this season with higher expectations.

“As a team, we are stronger and faster than last year, which is the result of the time and dedication that each member has put into the team to assure a different result,” said Fielding Kidd ’11, a returning starting defender.

In addition to returning 20 players this season, the Bulldogs welcome six newcomers, four of who will be contributing to the Eli offense, an area of focus for the Bulldogs this season.

“We want to be an offensive threat this year,” attacker Krissy Chapman ’13 said.

The Elis were outshot 379 to 333 last year. They also scored fewer than eight goals a game, making it difficult for them to stay even with their opponents, who averaged more than nine goals per game.

Defensive power is a strength for the Bulldogs, who were ranked 13th last season in scoring defense and are returning the same starters in the back this year. Assistant coach Brigid Strain specializes in defense, while newcomer Jillian Byers, a former Notre Dame All-American, will contribute to the coaching staff on offense, a focus about which coach Phillips said she is excited.

“Now that the defense has been established, we can continue to build the midfield and the attack,” she said.

The Bulldogs offensive attack will be anchored by attacker Jenna Block ’10. Playing from behind the net, Block was the top distributor for the Eli offense, accounting for 23 of the team’s 45 assists.

Of the Bulldogs 15 scheduled games this season, seven are against Ivy League opponents and eight are non-league games. The Yale squad will face seven teams that were ranked in Lacrosse Magazine’s preseason top-20 rankings and five teams that appeared in last year’s NCAA Tournament. For the first time in Ivy League history, there will be a conference tournament at the end of the regular season, beginning Apr. 30. The top four teams in the Ivy League will participate in the tournament, with the winner receiving a spot in the NCAA Tournament, which begins in May. And the Bulldogs are striving to be in that group.

“At stake is the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament,” Phillips said. “Our season goal is to make the tournament.”

Kidd echoed her coach in prioritizing the Ivy Tournament as a team goal.

“Our goal is to get there,” she said. “And once we are there, I am fully confident in the team that we will get the job done.”

The Bulldogs will open their season Saturday at Reese Stadium when they face off against Holy Cross at 2 p.m.