Leopards Turn It On

 

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Ami Turner about to cover Columbia midfielder

We got a peek at what may be possible this season as the Leopard’s turned up the heat from an earlier exhibition at Rutgers University. In game conditions, the Leopards met Columbia University in  New York this afternoon, and I started to see what may be emerging for  this 2016 version of Lafayette Field Hockey. What is clear is that there is still a better game to come from this team. There were three freshman starters, Sam DiMaio, Lisa Van der Geest, and Rosa Jonckheer who looked increasingly comfortable in their roles.

I also thought Cameron Costello did well during her time on the field. I later heard from her how much better she thought the team felt about this effort. It was the upperclassman however, who set the tone as Amanda Magadan, Ami Turner, Aliza Furneaux, and Ellen Colbourne were able to aggressively move the ball into the attacking areas of the field to set up three goals during the afternoon. There were a number of other chances that in later games will end in goals, I believe. There was no 7 v 7, a shootout was added at the end.

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Ellen Colbourne pokes the ball away from a Columbia player

It wasn’t all perfection, as the leopards gave up too many corners to satisfy the maroon coaching staff. Columbia played well with the Lions taking advantage of the chances they had. But for Lafayette, there are several days left before the opening game with Fairfield, and I suspect we will see a busy Lafayette coaching staff polishing  today’s effort. As I wrote, this team can still play better. Ami Turner in particular was impressive showing energy and skill from her midfield position. She has an uncanny ability to recognize her open teammates and distributed the ball showing her three years of  experience.  The entire bench of field players were used again, so the coaches now have a lot of tape to review and evaluate.

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Aliza Furneaux powers the ball upfield

Meanwhile, the Patriot League announced it’s preseason selections and the coaches and sports information writers picked the Leopards third, behind Boston and American, ( I had predicted they would pick American first). However, the Leopards were to garner the highest number of preseason all league selections in Amanda Magadan, Kaitlyn Arnold, and Ellen Colbourne. They were tied with Boston University who also had three nominees. The predicted order of finish was Boston, American, Lafayette, Bucknell, Holy Cross, Lehigh and Colgate. Lafayette garnered one first place vote.

The Leopards will meet MAAC champion, Fairfield University this Friday. This will be no easy game at Rappolt Field at 6 pm. Most opening games are tough, and Fairfield is anxious to prove that last year’s success was no fluke. I will have more about the game before thursday with my take on the “Stags.”

“We Can Play Better”

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Amanda Magadan receives the ball and gets ready to turn upfield

On August the 3rd I wrote I would write the truth and say when the team did not play up to their abilities. This time I need only quote many of the Lafayette players, “We can play better.” They have six days to make sure that their passes are more accurate, their tackling  more aggressive and their field sense is improved. There is a better team in there, I believe they will find it in the coming days.

There were some bright spots. Amanda Magadan showed her skill on the field that made her a player with national team abilities. Kaitlyn Arnold was very sharp as she and Gabby Ulery held Rutgers scoreless for a half. Lisa Van der Geest played well at the center back position playing excellent defense and delivering some accurate passes downfield.

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The lafayette goal line defense of Arnold,Furneaux and Van der Geest turn away Rutgers in the first half

The second bright spot was that everyone played in the game, every freshman, sophomore, junior and senior had a chance to be observed by the coaching staff in real time and certainly on tape later on.

Rutgers is an experienced team with a full class of eight seniors including several redshirts. They played with a coordinated manner knowing  where their teammates are on the field, a characteristic the Leopards will need to establish.

Lafayette did not get caught in the Rutgers press and cleared the ball very well.  However, Rutgers did manage to dominate time on the Lafayette side of the field while collecting 13 corners in the process.

Next week, Columbia will provide the last of rehearsal opponents before they are into the regular season. I sincerely believe next week will be a different story.

 

 

Practice Number Seven…The Mile Run

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Meg Lillis out front and stays there

Arriving at about 8:30 with the temperature already at 82f, the team assembled on the track at Metzger. Led by the Director of Strength and Conditioning Steve Plunkett a warm up was conducted using the hurdles set up for the exercise. This was the day of the dreaded mile run and no one was exempt. The earlier hour was chosen for obvious reasns but at 82 there was no escaping the heat. Armed with heart monitors the coaches directed the players into two heats, mixed by class and positions. The upperclassmen were casually prepared but there was obvious trepidation from the first year players.

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Cody Hunsicker, Kaitlyn Ewing, and Adriano Pero get control of the ball

The first heat was a fast one with senior Aliza Furneaux breaking out to an early lead with Amanda Magadan strategically two lengths behind. Ellen Coulboune remained a stealthy third. However, as the heat progressed Magadan broke to the lead finishing first in 6 minutes, followed by Colbourne, with Furneaux making it a close third. Cameron Costello was fourth and finished ahead of all her classmates!  The second heat was not as close as Meg Lillis broke out to an early 6 length lead and never gave it up.

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Kristen Taylor takes control of the ball at midfield

With that done, the team walked back to Rappolt Field to begin the day of real hockey. Today, was a day to practice pressing. It was an entertaining practice to watch and Magadan opened the practice with two goals as the team seemed to be energized by playing real hockey. There was also some really good defense at work, as I saw some excellent passing and releases up field by freshman Lisa van der Geest.  Aliza Furneaux seemed to be in the mix at crucial times showing her senior experience.

Sophomore Kristin Taylor showed good vision and aggressiveness from the midfield position, while defender Cody Hunsicker seemed no worse for wear after an earlier back muscle sprain.

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Lisa van der Geest sweeps the ball out of danger

Coach Stone seemed pleased as the session progressed. It was especially notable given that by the time practice ended it was already reaching 93 degrees. She has decided that the second practice of the day would be from 8-10 pm under the lights tonight in the cooler weather.

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Aliza Furneaux and Cody Hunsicker meet up

Tomorrow will be a day off and a team activity is scheduled to give everyone a well deserved break before resuming training on Monday. Tuesday will probably be a pre-game light day and the exhibition at Rutgers at 3pm on Wednesday is anticipated by fans and players alike.

Hockey, Heat and Heart

Preseason is all about improving on skills, physical fitness, and getting to know the teammates that will be there during the rigors of the season to come. It  is all field hockey, 24/7, with the players dealing with the Pennsylvania heat, testing their inner character and heart. It’s the test that will knit this disparate group of young women into a single efficient unit. It is done under the watchful eye of dedicated and demanding coaches. My wife and I arrived at Rappolt Field this morning about twenty minutes before the 9 am  start of practice.

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Ready set go!!

This was the third practice of the preseason and already Coach Stone has been able to make an assessment of the overall fitness of her charges. ” By and large I am pleased with the overall fitness, but typically there is always some catching up to do,” she opined.  She was pleased with the progress of the group and confident in their abilities. Practice was carefully planned to cover what she wanted to do in the two hour morning workout. As the temperature rose close to 90 Fahrenheit degrees (and I am sure higher on the turf), these young women went through their paces. There were frequent breaks and their heart rates  and other vital signs were constantly monitored by computerized devices worn by each player and transmitted to the coach’s iPad.

The practice began with  organized stretching and proceeded onto a series of drills designed to promote teamwork and individual skill. For the veterans, it was a continuation of the spring season, while the newest players were learning quickly where their new teammates will be on the field. The players were split into three areas as the goalies worked under the tutelage of coach Dalrymple, coach Janice supervised a drill which looked like the field hockey version of keep away, promoting defensive and offensive skills, while coach Stone worked on skills devoted to patterns close to the goal. The field players switched as each player got a chance at each drill, after  which the goalies joined the group for some real live action with their teammates.

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Coach Stone explains the next drill

At this point in preseason Coach Stone can be pleased the players seemed to be progressing. Later in the practice there was a drill devoted to fast breaks and which impressed me with the improved passing accuracy in the transition from defense to offense. Coach pushed the team to improve their ability and to adjust to various situations, but  on one occasion she was not satisfied with the execution, after which practice was stopped for team push-ups ( coaches included).

I continue to be impressed by many of our returning players and their progress. Rachel Bird continued to look good with her accurate passing and Ellen Colbourne continued to show her speed and leadership on the field. Amanda Magadan was not at practice as she finished summer classes to lighten her academic load this fall, since she will be traveling to Chile for the Junior World Cup at the end of November for two weeks after the season. She will be available next week, and for the Rutgers scrimmage.

There was an offensive highlight by Samantha DeMaio as she scored a goal by delivering it  through her own legs with her back to the cage. It appears to me that the new class will be contributors to the success of this team.  The two Roses, Rosie Shanks and Rosa Jonckheer worked well together in front of the goal. Senior Ami Turner showed her usual grit.

Captain Katelyn Arnold was sharp in goal directing her defensive teammates during the morning. It is still early, and there is a lot to learn in the next week. This early sample whetted the appetite for next week’s exhibition with Rutgers.

GO PARDS!

It’s August 9th And Lafayette 2016 Arrives

August ninth could not have come sooner. The day finally arrived. It’s a day we fans, teammates, parents and coaching staff have been building for during the last 9 months. Everyone arrived none the worse for wear, having traveled a combined 23,000 miles to get to this place. The upper class parents arranged a welcoming tailgate and they did not disappoint with meatballs, sandwiches, wraps, and plethora of salads and desserts. All was quickly consumed while new friends were made, old friends got reacquainted and teammates began bonding.

Coach Stone opened with some welcoming remarks and introduced the team of professionals that would be supporting their daughters. They included the coaching staff, sports medicine professionals, strength and conditioning staff, public relations staff, academic support staff, along with the Katie McKittrick the senior women’s administrator and Bruce McCutcheon the Director of Athletics who addressed the group. Tom Dubreuil who is in charge of Family  Relations in the Development Office also was in attendance. I made some brief remarks and it was on to lunch.

The rest of the day was devoted to team meetings, photo sessions in uniform, equipment distribution, physicals and finally the first team dinner in the evening. They will hit the turf on Wednesday mostly with the objective to test fitness and using the infamous “beep” test.

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Asst Director of Athletics for Peak Performance, Brad Potts makes a point with first year team members, Lisa Van der Geest, Sara Park and Rose Jonckheer paying close attention

Brad Potts, the assistant Director of Athletics for Peak Performance was the first up at a team meeting to discuss the training regime, as well as discussing NCAA regulations regarding alcohol and illegal drugs. He explained that the NCAA can demand a random drug test at any time. He also explained how his department will assist the athlete not only in the case of injury rehab, but in injury prevention.

After that meeting they were headed out to the turf for the first time for pictures and locker assignments. Tomorrow morning begins the real work.

I will be visiting practice thursday and/or friday and will take some pictures and videos. The first exhibition will be at Rutgers next wednesday at 3pm.

 

Amanda Magadan Selected For Junior World Cup Team

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USA field hockey has announced the first 14 players for the Junior World Cup team who will play in late November in Chile. Amanda who is a senior co-captain for the Leopards has played for the US under 21 team during the last two years. The remaining selections will be announced later by the US head coach. For more information go to http://www.goleopards.com.

Congratulations to Amanda!!

23,000 Miles And Four Days Until It All Begins

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Senior Aliza Furneaux sprints upfield looking for an open player

The Lafayette Field Hockey team will be traveling an estimated 23,000 combined miles in the next four days to arrive in Easton to begin preseason practice for the 2016 season. Between August 9th and August 26th the team will engage in about 14 days of multiple practices relieved by two live scrimmages with Rutgers and Columbia. The first real game will be against Fairfield University on August 26th. Fairfield is a former Patriot League member who won their own league last year, only to lose to Patriot League champion, Boston University in the first NCAA game.

Every team in the league will  begin their own journey, each with their own goals and objectives to try to perform better than in 2015 regardless of their final record. The league will see one new coach. Lehigh has hired Caitlin Dallmeyer who comes from Dickinson College and played her hockey at Duke. Holy Cross has hired a new assistant who was an assistant at Bucknell, and Lafayette has a new assistant in Sara Dalrymple from Hofstra.

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Senior Co- Captain Amanda Magadan moves the ball into scoring position

The league itself will be stronger and the schedules of last year’s top four teams  are sprinkled with NCAA tournament participants as well other  highly ranked teams. It should raise the RPI of the whole league. Holy Cross which just missed getting into Patriot League tournament will be looking to break that ceiling this year while American, Boston University, Lafayette and Bucknell will be trying to keep hold of the top four spots in the League. Although Boston University only took in two recruits this year, they will return 18 experienced players and will be a team to beat in the League. However, they have lost Sofi Laurito, their best player. American University returns with Patriot League rookie of the year Rafaelo Rubas. They will have 19 returning players and will play one of the toughest out of conference schedules in the league. Lafayette  brings 14 players back led by team captains, Kaitlyn Arnold who led the league in shutouts, and first team all patriot leaguer and U-21 team member Amanda Magadan. Senior Aliza Furneaux will anchor the defense while Ami Turner, who was the second leading scorer on the team will start in the midfield. The roster is boosted by the largest freshman class in the league.

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Senior midfielder and second leading scorer Ami Turner

Bucknell will be very solid as 19 return from the team that went two overtimes against Boston in the PL tournament. Lehigh’s new coach will rebuild as she  concentrates on improving the Mountain Hawks team culture. Holy Cross had some interesting wins last year including a 4-3 win against Lafayette. Seventeen will return from last year. Colgate’s disappointing season is behind them as they rededicate themselves for 2016.

My guess is when Head Coaches and Sports Information personnel cast their preseason ballots it will sort out in descending order, American, Boston,Lafayette,Bucknell, Holy Cross, Lehigh, and Colgate. I will reserve my predictions until after preseason. ( Hint: I think Lafayette and Bucknell will surprise!!!)

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Senior Co- Captain Kaitlyn Arnold is a wall protecting the goal

In the meantime, our Leopards return after hopefully, intense preparation. Many have been playing in home club teams, and keeping sharp in preparation for tuesday’s arrival. The operative word for the next several weeks is integration and team building. The key will be how quickly the new players can be integrated into the team allowing Coach Stone to install a seamless offensive and defensive scheme. No doubt there is talent in the returning veterans and new players,  but the most important job will be to jell into an effective team. Our first clue will come in New Brunswick at Rutgers.

Next up, will be arrival day and the opening tailgate!