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Panthers Have Improved, but so has the District

Experienced Potomac Falls girls lacrosse team working hard to become Dulles contenders.

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Potomac Falls’ Katie Baumgardner is giving it her best shot on the lacrosse field this spring.

Hopes are high that the Potomac Falls High girls’ lacrosse team will be an improved squad from the 2007 Panthers’ team which put together a more than respectable 8-7 record.

This year’s Panthers have a large number of players back from last year’s squad. That returning experience and solid overall play thus far has contributed to the team’s good start this spring. Potomac Falls, after losing its season opener at Loudoun County, 9-8, has come back strong with road wins over both Brentsville (Nokesville), 11-4, and Park View, 15-1.

"Overall, we’ve been improving every game," said Potomac Falls coach Allan Dacanay. "Hopefully when the [Dulles] District games start up, the girls will be ready for that."

While coach Dacanay is optimistic about his team’s potential this spring, he cautions that every team in the district has gotten better, as well, and that the Panthers will have their work cut out for them this season.

"We do have a lot of experience back," said Dacanay, whose ’07 Panthers’ squad defeated George Mason in a first round district tournament game before seeing its season end with a second round loss to Broad Run. "Hopefully, we’ll be better this year. But every team in the district has improved. We have a lot of starters back, but it’s [still] going to be tough."

<b>ASSESSING</b> his team on the field, the coach said, "We have a real strong midfield and we have several girls on the attack who, if they get more aggressive, can score some goals," he said. "Our defense is young."

The Panthers will be led in the midfield by senior midfielder Stefani Werner, a team co-captain along with senior defender Katie Dacanay.

Katie, who is coach Dacanay’s daughter, is a fourth year varsity starter for Potomac Falls. She has already committed to play the sport at the college level next year at St. Francis (Pa.), an NCAA Div. 1 member of the Northeast Conference.

The Panthers have received a big boost this season with the addition of senior and first year lacrosse player Katie Baumgardner to the team.

Baumgardner, an outstanding soccer goalie who will play that sport on scholarship at Ohio State next year, decided to try lacrosse in her senior year. A club soccer player and an outstanding athlete, Baumgardner has made an impact on the lacrosse field for the Panthers with her team leading 14 goals over the first three games.

"We convinced her to come out this year," said coach Dacanay. "She knows all the seniors and juniors and is friends with all the girls on the team. She’s extremely hard working and athletically gifted. She tries hard and knows she has a lot to learn."

Dacanay said Baumgardner is picking up the sport quickly and that her athletic ability has helped her to excel despite being a lacrosse novice.

"The stick skills in lacrosse take years to kind of master," said the coach. "That’s kind of hard for her right now. But she can pick up a ground balls and, because of her speed, beat [defenders] to the goal. And she has a hard shot."

Certainly, the prospects of a strong season are bright for the Panthers.

Potomac Falls was scheduled to play games this week against Freedom High on Monday and visiting Heritage on Thursday night at 7:15.