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A new season means new opportunities have arisen for players looking to make a name for themselves nationally.

It happens every year. An underappreciated player carves out a niche in her team’s rotation in early March and rides that wave of production all the way to the headlines in April. Predicting that is often a fruitless endeavor. It’s something of an oxymoron to predict the breakout of an unknown talent, after all. But let’s take a shot.

Our team of staff contributors highlighted breakout candidates from each team in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Division I Women’s Preseason Top 20. Check them out below and come back after the season to let us know how we did.


Belle Smith, M, So. 

This might be a stretch, as Smith was already exceptional as a freshman. But there’s a legit chance she enters another stratosphere in Year 2. The ACC Rookie of the Year is coming off a season in which she tallied 65 points and 47 goals, both program rookie records. She had a point in every game and a goal in 19 of 21 games. Look out for even more this season. As good as she is, Smith still has more room to grow — and that’s a scary prospect for the rest of the ACC. — Kenny DeJohn


Brooklyn Neumen, M, Sr. 

An experienced player with 18 starts from (2019-20), Neumen came off the bench 16 times in 2021. Still, she is expected to provide stability and leadership to new midfield group that features a prominent transfer in Olivia Dirks (Penn State). Jenny Levy’s midfield is a deep group yet again, led by first-team preseason All-American Ally Mastroianni and a returning veteran in Scottie Rose Growney, but look for Neumen to carve out a role. — Hunter Nelson


Sierra Cockerille, M, Sr.  

Despite tallying 22 goals and 28 last spring, new head coach Kayla Treanor said Cockerille “still totally flies under the radar.” Treanor added that Cockerille is “ an unbelievable midfielder and is going to be a key for us come this spring.” During the World Lacrosse Super Sixes event last October, Cockerille registered seven goals and four assists in four games for the Haudenosaunee Confederacy team playing against several of her Syracuse teammates. — Nelson Rice


Erin Coykendall, A, Jr. 

Coykendall quietly had one of the best offensive seasons in the Big Ten last year. She was one of the youngest players in the Wildcats’ starting attack unit, proving to be an important playmaker and especially creative behind the goal. The Wildcats’ relative inexperience on attack this year — magnified by the season-ending ACL injury suffered by Izzy Scane — gives Coykendall a chance to lead the unit alongside Lauren Gilbert. Her keen eye for making plays will be key to the Wildcats’ success in 2022. — Charlotte Varnes


Kira Accettella, M, Jr. 

Accettella has played 19 games at Stony Brook, with four starts in her freshman season. She’s someone who can contribute everywhere, but she made improvements on the offensive end in 2021. She scored 11 goals — including her first career hat trick against Hartford — and shot 84.2 percent on goal. A deep midfield is made even deeper if Accettella indeed reaches another level. — Kenny DeJohn


Eloise Clevenger, M, So.

Highly touted coming out of high school, Clevenger had a bit of a coming out party in the NCAA tournament with a three-point effort against High Point. She’ll get plenty of run in her second year as the offense reloads. “She can be behind the cage, roll the crease, she can be in front and catch and score,” Reese said. “She has lots of strengths. I’m excited to see her breakout and watch her shine.” — Jeremy Fallis


Emma Schettig, D, Jr.

Schettig was a highly touted transfer, but only appeared in seven of Notre Dame’s 18 games. She was dynamic when on the field, recording 14 draw controls and two caused turnovers. Schettig will likely play a bigger role for the Irish this season, especially with the team’s openings on the draw and defense. — Charlotte Varnes


Can she be a top returner and a breakout candidate? Absolutely. A midfielder her first four years in Durham, Barry is set to focus on attack in her fifth year and expand her offensive role. Expect Barry to handle much off the setup that Gabby Rosenzweig did last year and rack up big points because of it. “I think she’s been a very underrated player for us,” coach Kerstin Kimel said. “She was a great scorer and a great facilitator [in the fall], and it suits her personality. She’s the unquestioned leader of our team.” — Jeremy Fallis


Black’s hat trick against Hofstra in the NCAA first round will be seen as a precursor to a big sophomore season. The Ohio native spent 2020 in California and couldn’t join the Greyhounds for fall ball, essentially going into 2021 cold. With a spring season, plus a fall ball, expect a lot out of this young star-to-be. “People have started to take notice. Sydni is one of the most dynamic and athletic attackers I’ve ever coached,” head coach Jen Adams said. — Jeremy Fallis


Ashley Gonzalez, M, So.

Gonzalez started five times with four multi-goal efforts as a freshman, and she showed flashes of what could come with more exposure to the collegiate game. Given the available playing time in the midfield, Gonzalez should play her way into a full-time role — and an important one, at that. A decorated high schooler, Gonzalez set Half Hollow Hills (N.Y.) single-season and career scoring records. — Kenny DeJohn


Ellena Schildmeyer, M, So.

Schildmeyer played two games last year as a freshman, but she’ll be thrust into the defensive scheme in 2022. “She just finds a way to get things done,” Myers said. “She’s a magnet for communicating on and off the field. I think she can light a fire. Her personality lends itself to that.” — Jeremy Fallis


Lizzy Fox, M, R-Jr.

“People don’t know Lizzy Fox,” Klaes said. Until she scored in overtime to beat Drexel in the CAA championship game, Klaes was right. But her name made its way through the airwaves after that goal, and Klaes is expecting an all-out breakout from the midfielder this year. Fox thrives when she takes risks, and Klaes saw a burden lifted from her shoulders after scoring that goal. If she can play free and loose, Fox is in for a big year. — Kenny DeJohn


Shannon Berry, M, Jr.

A gritty player with great communication skills, Berry has improved tremendously since she started seven games as a freshman in 2019. She will help both ends of the field. — Justin Feil


Maggie Bellaschi, D, Sr.

Bellaschi, a four-year starter, has flown under the radar because her value as a defender stretches beyond the stat sheet, according to Spencer. But she is “an absolute pitbull” and could pop up more on paper in 2022, Spencer said. — Eric He


Ellie Curry, M, Jr.

Curry’s influence stretches from crease to crease. A ball hawk on defense, she can transition quickly and throw in a few goals, too. For a team lacking returning offense, Curry will help fill a void as a true midfielder. — Jeremy Fallis


Sophia Cardello, G, So.

She stepped up as a freshman during a rigorous Big Ten-only schedule, starting eight of the final nine games. There’s room for improvement, sure. She had three games of double-digit saves — including a 15-save outing against Ohio State on April 29 — but her 35.6 save percentage leaves room for growth. Lehman is excited to see it. — Kenny DeJohn


Allison Drake, A, Jr. and Claire Jarema, M, R-Sr.

Drake didn’t see any time on the field in 2021, but a new coaching staff brings a fresh perspective to personnel. Thus, Drake is going to play next to Colleen Grady at the X as a multi-dimensional attacker. She can break down a defender with a dodge and is relentless on the ride, something Kim Hillier is putting increased importance on. Jarema has bought into the new coaching staff’s philosophy, setting her up for an impactful spring. She’s a speedy midfielder who brings athleticism onto the field. Although she didn’t play a ton last season, she notched her only goal and assist against James Madison in the CAA championship game. — Kenny DeJohn


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. — Justin Feil


Kyra Place, Jr., M

Place started two games and made 14 appearances in 2021, netting a hat trick against Georgetown in a game that Watson could not play. That alone gives Woods confidence in Place, as stepping up for an All-American and producing is a tall task. “She’s just a kid who loves playing,” Woods said. “She has this huge smile with her mouthguard beaming through.” — Kenny DeJohn

20. PENN

Niki Miles, A, Jr.

Miles took last year off and returned a stronger, more determined player with newfound confidence. “She wants to make an impact, and she wants to be a big player,” head coach Karin Corbett said. — Justin Feil