After narrowly missing the 2014 NESCAC tournament due to a random selection that broke a three-way tie between Connecticut College, Hamilton, and Wes for the eighth and final seed, the Wesleyan field hockey team is looking to rebound from last year’s 3-12 record.
“Though we did not have a winning season last year, we became close as a team and are going to transfer that chemistry onto the field,” Captain Michaela Celella ’16 said. “Our younger players have gotten more experience, and some really talented freshmen have impressed already.”
Although the Cardinals graduated four players, they return 14 letterwinners, eight of which started at least four games last season. In addition, they have added seven freshmen.
“It is very exciting to have so many newcomers this year and there is a lot of new talent,” said Captain Caitlin Majewski ’16. “Relying on both new and returning players, we look forward to showcasing what we have been working on throughout preseason in our season opener on Tuesday.”
The Cardinals have been revamping an offense that was outscored 50-17 by its opponents last fall. The Cards will look to Captain Hannah Plappert ’16 to lead the offense. Last season, Plappert led the team with eight goals and one assist, giving her a total of 17 points. Lauren Yue ’17, who solidified herself as the team’s inserter on penalty corners in 2014, will also play an integral role in the Cardinals’ offense.
“Hannah has been looking great in preseason and I am excited to be on the field with her as I am coming off a season-ending injury from last year,” Celella said. “Overall, we have a lot of talent and just have to put the pieces together.”
In addition to returning two of the team’s top three points leaders, the Cardinals’ two veteran netminders, Sara Grundy ’16 and Claire Edelman ’17, are back between the posts. Grundy started 12 of the Cards’ 15 games, while Edelman appeared in six and started three last season.
“The team is approaching this season with a positive attitude and a committed work ethic,” Plappert stated.
Prior to the start of their season, which kicks off on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at Roger Williams University, the Cardinals played two scrimmages that helped set the tone for their upcoming schedule. The Birds beat the Hawks 1-0 last year in the first ever meeting between the two teams.
“We played two intense scrimmages during preseason, both of which set the pace for a competitive fall,” Plappert stated. “After the two great scrimmages we played this week, everyone on the team is really excited for the opener against Roger Williams on Tuesday. We are coming out ready for a win.”
Following the Hawks, the Cardinals will have three more non-conference games, all at Smith Field, before they start conference play on Saturday, Sept. 19 on the road against the 2014 NCAA DIII runner-up, Bowdoin. The Polar Bears are currently ranked first in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) preseason poll.
The road to winning their first ever NESCAC championship does not get any easier for the Cardinals. Including Bowdoin, the NESCAC has five teams ranked in the top 15 in the preseason rankings.
“The NESCAC is a very competitive conference for DIII field hockey, and we are happy for that [since] we want to compete against the best,” Plappert said. “This season, our coach has been stressing the idea that ‘pressure is a privilege.’ What that means to us is that every pass, every shot, and every game is a moment of high pressure, but also a moment of great opportunity. We are thankful to be in such a competitive league that tests our team’s ability, and we’re excited for the opportunity to compete.”
Although winning the Little Three is a goal every season, the Cardinals know not to get ahead of themselves.
“This early in the season, we are taking things one step at a time,” Celella said. “We are looking at keeping it simple and playing crisp hockey as a team. We would love a win against Roger Williams, and of course, in the long term, we would love a Little Three victory.”
The Cardinals are ready to once again contend for a title.
“We are very excited for both our league and non-league games,” Majewski said. “This is one of the most competitive leagues and it is any team’s game on any given day.”