Bone-chilling winds ripped through the souls of fans and players alike as Vermont took on Niagara in women’s lacrosse action Friday afternoon on Moulton Winder field, UVM’s brand new state-of-the-art turf field. In a non-conference matchup, the Catamounts of Vermont played host to the Purple Eagles of Niagara in both teams’ season opener. This was the first ever meeting between Niagara (who plays in the MAAC conference) and Vermont. Although admission was free, the fans paid a significant price in having to deal with the freezing temperatures.The players were bundled up and ready to go, the national anthem played, the buzzer sounded, the whistle blew. The 2006 season had begun. The Cats started slow, playing even with Niagara for the first few minutes. Coach Johnson called a timeout with the game tied at four to refocus the team and it paid off. The Cats would go on to outscore the Purple Eagles 7-1 from that point on and never looked back. Goalkeeper Meaghan Hanley earned her first win of the season, recording five saves. Goals were scored by Millar, Clark, Maher and Wasson (who had two each), and Becky Kenison, who tore up the Eagle’s defense, scoring nearly at will and finishing with five goals. Afterwards, Kenison spoke with pride and compassion about her team, saying, “We are as tight a team as we’ve ever been. The freshman came in and pushed us older players to be better. We’re gonna be a tough squad to beat.”Coming off a disappointing 2005 season (4-11 overall 1-5 in conference), the Catamounts went to work during the offseason and had one of the best recruiting years in recent history. On the squad of twenty, twelve freshman suited up for Friday’s game. Stand-out freshman include Kristen Millar (Whitby, Ontario), Tori Wasson (Lake Forest, IL), and Jen Maher (Waterbury Ctr., VT). Maher led the team with 5 points in a preseason scrimmage against Division III powerhouse Middlebury College, one in which the Cats beat Middlebury 14-3. Key players returning to the team are junior Becky Kenison, sophomore goalkeeper Meaghan Hanley (America East All-Rookie Team last season), sophomore Emilie Clark, and junior captains Ashleigh Wilson and Christine Yoon (currently out due to injury). This season the Catamounts are missing the talents of Vanessa Cox who graduated following last season as the all-time leader in points (173) and goals (133). Cox was also a three-time America East All-Conference selection during her career.Jennifer Johnson returns for her second season as head coach, and is expecting positive things from this young squad, “the freshman add a lot more talent and spunk to the team. They have a real competitive edge and energy that we’ll need.”When asked to reflect on the game coach Johnson was modest about the victory. “We started out really slow. We forgot fundamental things like shooting, passing and stick handling. But we battled back and pulled it out.” The Cats were picked to finish 5th in the 2006 America East Preseason Coaches Poll. Boston University, the defending America East champions were picked to repeat this season. Come out and support your Catamounts for their next home game on March 12th at 2:00pm as they take the field against Marist.