Expectations are high and players are hungry after David nearly took down Goliath in the first round of last year’s conference championship, when the field hockey team fell to Amherst by a score of 1-0. The Redbirds roster returns 16 letterwinners, eight of whom were starters.
“I am very excited for the upcoming season,” Captain Anna Howard ’15 wrote in an email to The Argus. “Though we lost a few key starters, our returning players, especially our younger players, have stepped up their game to an incredible level. It has been fun to see our team develop over preseason and find a new rhythm on the field. I believe that the Wesleyan field hockey team will be a very competitive team in the NESCAC league this year.”
The Cardinals will continue to rely on their defensive prowess, which rarely failed them during their 6-9 2013 campaign. Wesleyan was tied for fifth in conference with 28 goals allowed in just 15 games played, equating to 1.81 goals allowed per contest. The Redbirds were also second in the conference with a save percentage of 80 percent, largely due to the play of goalie Sara Grundy ’16, who started every game in her sophomore season.
“I attribute a lot of the success of our defense to the trust and confidence that we have in each other,” Howard wrote. “Each of us is able to focus on doing our jobs out on the field knowing that we can have full confidence that the others are doing theirs.”
Although Wes was near the top of the NESCAC in defense, its offense could not replicate the success. The team was tied for ninth in the conference with just 172 shots and 20 goals in 15 games played. In order to make a deep run into the NESCAC tournament in 2014, the Redbirds are going to have to figure out how to put the ball in the back of the net.
“We are playing with a similar formation as last year,” Howard wrote. “We have been working a lot on our receptions and moving onto the ball. We have found success in practice when we can move the ball quickly around and cleanly receive the passes. This enables us to find the open player inside the circle and get her the ball to score.”
Even after losing some exceptional starters to graduation, like goal scorer Blair Ingraham ’14, offensive threat Amber Bruckner ’14, and fierce defender Taylor Wells ’14, there is still optimism due to the recruitment of seven new freshmen. Hopefully, these new faces will be able to offer something unique to the team’s efforts on the field.
“The freshmen have shown some amazing talent throughout preseason,” Howard wrote. “I think that the entire class will greatly [contribute] to the success of our team.”
The Cardinals will kick off the season at home against Roger Williams University on Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 6 p.m. Come out to Smith Field and support the Cardinals, as last year they were the second worst in the NESCAC in terms of fan attendance with just over 100 fans per home contest. The second game of the season will signal the start of the conference schedule when Bowdoin travels to Middletown on Saturday, Sept. 6 for a noon start. The Polar Bears have proved to be a challenging out in recent memory for the Cardinals, as Wesleyan has not won a matchup between the two since 2009.
“Bowdoin is always a tough but very exciting first match,” Howard wrote. “They are a very strong team. Our biggest strategy going into the game is to have faith in our formation on the field and in each other. No matter what their record is in the past, they are a team that we can definitely compete with. I believe that we will see a lot of success if we use our small triangles and work the give-and-gos down the field.”
Before the seniors have time to reflect, the end of the season will be upon them. Similar to last season, they hope to be looking at a playoff schedule. Despite this, just making the tournament isn’t enough, as they want to leave their mark on the Wesleyan Field Hockey program.
“This team has been my family for the last 3 years of my life,” Howard wrote. “I have loved every minute of being with the girls and of representing Wesleyan out on the field. As a senior, I want to enjoy every minute of it. I know that I cannot take any of it for granted, as it will be over before I know it. As a senior captain, I want to make every part of the season as amazing as I can so that both the team and I will remember it for the rest of our lives.”