If anyone is wondering how the Syracuse University women's lacrosse team went from also-ran to national championship contender in three years, look no farther than the town of Bethlehem.
Three important pieces of this year's Orange junior attacker Katie Rowan, sophomore attacker Halley Quillinan and assistant coach John Battaglino once worked together to bring the Bethlehem Central High School varsity girls lacrosse team to the state championship game.
Now, that same trio is hoping to bring Syracuse to its first national championship game.
"I think we have a shot, and it's really exciting," said Quillinan. "But it's a long season."
"We're right there," said Battaglino. "We just need some more depth, and we're there."
The Orange turned heads last year when they won the Big East title and reached the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. That led to a No. 5 national ranking entering the 2008 season, the first time the Orange had been ranked that high to start the year.
"It's definitely exciting but we don't want to focus on that," said Rowan. "We just want to improve each game."
"You can't read too much into the rankings, but we're honored to be regarded so highly," added Quillinan.
Rowan and Quillinan were a big part of Syracuse's success last year, as the duo combined for 109 goals and 34 assists. Rowan set school records in points (86) and goals in a season (59), while Quillinan set a freshman record for goals in a season (50) " a mark Rowan previously held.
"Katie had a tremendous freshman season, and no one can take that away from her," said Quillinan. "But the team on the whole was better with her. Half of my goals were probably assisted by her."
"Whatever I could do to help her," added Rowan with a laugh. "But obviously, she's a great player. Lefties are hard to defend in the first place, but she's very good at going to the goal and shooting."