2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 18 Jacksonville (Women)

PHOTO BY DUNCAN BOONE / JACKSONVILLE ATHLETICS

Alyssa Arnold is a four-year starter who helped Jacksonville to the No. 11 offense in the nation last spring.


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 18 JACKSONVILLE

2021 Record: 12-2 (3-0, ASUN)
Final Ranking (2021): No. 16
Coach: Mindy McCord (13th season)

Sarah Elms — the 2021 ASUN Player of the Year — and Jenny Kinsey — the 2021 ASUN Preseason Player of the Year pick — are two of the seven graduate students listed on Jacksonville’s roster. Their return, along with the influx of four transfers and nine freshmen, has the Dolphins optimistic that they can build on last year’s breakthrough season.

“When I was being recruited, I knew I wanted to go to a competitive school and play at the top level,” Kinsey said. “But I also wanted to be a part of something that had room for me to make an impact and create something special.”

They have. After 48 wins from 2017-19 and three more during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Jacksonville opened 2021 with a win over High Point and knocked off Florida for the first time in school history. The 12-11 victory turned heads. The Dolphins went on to beat Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling to Florida in their rematch in the second round.

“What we weren’t prepared for last year was two games in a weekend, having enough depth to move forward,” Jacksonville coach Mindy McCord after the 12-2 season. “When you get to the tournament or your conference championship, you have to get through two teams in a short amount of time.”

Building up their depth was the goal of the fall with the payoff to come this spring. Jacksonville has 97 percent of its roster back from a year ago, and retaining experienced players, plus adding talented newcomers, will go a long way toward improving depth. Newcomers pushed the veterans and raised expectations during a productive fall slate.

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Boston College

2. North Carolina

3. Syracuse

4. Northwestern

5. Stony Brook

6. Maryland

7. Notre Dame

8. Duke

9. Loyola

10. Florida

11. Virginia

12. James Madison

13. Princeton

14. Stanford

15. Denver

16. Rutgers

17. Drexel

18. Jacksonville

19. UConn

20. Penn

“We have a really loaded roster this year,” Elms said. “It’s really deep compared to previous years. The fall was important to get all the new girls — the freshmen and the transfers — time with the team and show them the ways we play at JU.”

Elms, who ranked seventh in the country with 4.29 goals per game last year, and Kinsey, who sat 34th in points per game, along with fellow graduate student and four-year starter Alyssa Arnold, lead a potent attack that ranked 11th nationally in scoring last year. They’re not resting on those achievements. They have focused on diversifying their arsenal for their fifth years.

“Every attacker on the team, including our middies, our goal is to work toward being eventually unscoutable,” Kinsey said. “When you go against tough teams and going deep into a scout, if you have multiple tools and multiple things you can pull on them, it’s going to be harder for them to create a defensive plan.”

Led by senior midfielder Molly Brock, the Jacksonville defense should not be overlooked. They sat ninth nationally in scoring defense last year. The depth at both ends of the field will be challenged by a schedule that has been bolstered with the addition of three new opponents in USC, North Carolina and Notre Dame. They’ll play Florida again at the end of the regular season, this time with the added confidence in knowing they can defeat the Gators.

“We have to keep that mindset from last year,” Kinsey said. “We proved it. We have to keep that rolling this year.”

The returning players bring an attitude of confidence to the Dolphins as they try to make another jump. Jacksonville is hoping that the development of depth since last year’s breakthrough season helps push it to another level.

“I think it takes passion and motivation from everyone,” Elms said. “Last year, we were really determined as a team, and I think that really boosted us. That from every single person on the team is going to elevate us.”







TOP RETURNERS

Molly Brock, M, Sr.

Brock broke out as the ASUN Defensive Player of the Year last season. Her 13 draw controls and five ground balls were a big part of the Dolphins’ win over Florida.

Sarah Elms, A, Grad.

The ASUN Player of the Year and honorable mention All-American is prepped to build on her record-breaking season in which she paced the attack with 60 goals.

Jenny Kinsey, A, Grad.

A three-year starter, Kinsey has raised her scoring each successive season. She and Elms make for one of the best scoring combinations in the country.

KEY ADDITION

Kaila Stasulli, D, Fr.

Stasulli impressed this fall with her aggressive play, high IQ and talent. She is expected to add coveted depth at the defensive end.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

Lauren Craft, A, Sr.

A transfer from Penn State, the Dolphins are excited about her potential to bolster their offense. Craft made five starts in 13 games for Penn State last year and had three multi-goal games.

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Dolphins:

“They have that chip. They don’t care they’re at Jacksonville. They’re going to compete against you no matter who you are or where it is. You can see it when they play. They play with that underdog mentality, always. They catch a lot of teams not prepared.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

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The 2021 Dolphins finished the year with the highest end-of-season LaxElo rating since the stat was developed in 2016. With a returning trio of Sarah Elms (20th highest EGA in Division I women’s lacrosse), Molly Brock (52nd) and Jenny Kinsey (75th), they’ll be looking to make it a short-lived high watermark. — Zack Capozzi

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