Two Weeks To Go….Leopards Get Ready

There are only two weeks left on the calendar until the Leopard Field Hockey team reports for the grueling weeks of preseason. This will lead up to the first game with Hofstra on the 25th of August. Lafayette has unfinished business, as they  left Long Island last year with a 4-1 score against the Leopards. In fact, the whole early schedule will not be an easy one this year, and the first Patriot League game is early. Reforming as a team is as much mental as it is physical. For sure, arriving ready to play physically is paramount, but that only allows the player the ability to absorb the complexities of new offensive and defensive schemes, as well as adjusting to new positions.

College field hockey is all about a four year cycle. At Lafayette, baring injury, or acceptance of playing for a national team, red shirt years are rare. It is for all practical purposes a new team every year. The Leopards will have a new goalie, they will miss an all american, and all league performers. But this will be an opportunity to see individuals step up. More importantly, they will learn to connect and play with others, veteran and rookie alike.

Co-captain Ellen Colburne,  who may be the fastest player on the field in any game the Leopards play this year,  will be a challenge to defend. The inevitable double and triple teaming she will get will mean other players will need to be in those open spaces that will be  created. Kristen Taylor showed some of her skill last spring as an attacking midfielder. Rosie Shanks has become expert at second and third shots. On her knees, running full blast, or standing on her head she manages to get a shot on goal. Theresa Delahanty and Cody Hunsicker will bring new skills, having been selected to try out for the Under 21 US Team.

I could fill this page with those I believe can be difference makers this year, and I will as the season goes on. There will new names, that will enhance the Leopards, as competition makes each player better as the weeks progress. But it might be these last  weeks that could make a difference. The extra wind sprint, the learning of a new skill, and the enshrinement of these new skills, with new connections on the field could be the difference in tight games.

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Former Leopard Amanda Magadan provides inspiration to current Leopards as she performs on the US National Team

These veterans and the seven new first year players are getting ready with personal workouts, pick up games, and just hanging together. Many remained on campus during the summer and fortunately many live in the area. For example, a group this past sunday  got together after a sunday pick up game and traveled to the Delahanty’s for lunch and watched former teammate Amanda Magadan start for the US national team defeating and winning the  FIH semi-final tournament against Germany in South Africa.

Watching the US women come from behind, and winning on a shoot-out was certainly inspiring. It could make these Leopards relive their own game with BU last year, winning on a similar shootout.

But there are more memories to make this year, and this team is up to the task. The schedule will not give them breaks, with several NCAA qualifiers and the defending national champion in their way. Somehow they will dig deep and find their winning attitude.

Let the games begin!!!

Patriot League Preview…….Lehigh University

Caitlin Dallmeyer returns for her third year reloading with with a roster of 20. Having lost 5 seniors and 4 other underclassman, Dallmeyer brings in a class of 9 recruits hoping to strengthen her lineup. As I look at her recruits she has succeeded in at least adding depth and competition to the Goalkeeper position. Paige Innarella. last year’s sophomore goal keeper will face competition with incoming freshman Emma Gromacki who in 2015 had a 91 percent save average in high school, but Division one field hockey can be different.

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Intensity is always alive in a Lafayette Lehigh game

With graduation departures, Lehigh loses half of their shots and I am sure Dallmeyer was thinking offense when she went after Lenke Havos the Mountain Hawks first dutch recruit. Defense will have to be better because in Patriot League play  with only 9 goals scored against  League opponents and suffering 16 goals in the process means the defense will have to improve while the offense begins to figure things out. However Lehigh was still in the hunt for a playoff position finishing just out with a 2-4 record. Carotenuto is back who played a key role on the offense and looks to be a key contributor again this year.

Improvement has been steady but the whole league is moving forward. The question for every team is…. are you moving faster than the rest of the League. Perhaps we will get more of a clue in the out of conference schedule. Lehigh’s early schedule will give them some time to get oriented. The first game is with second year division one team LIU Brooklyn, two days later on August 27th they meet Ohio State in Bethlehem as  the Buckeyes arrive with new coach Jared Martin from Duke ( Dallmeyer’s alma mater). They follow with LaSalle,Sacred Heart, and a scrappy Monmouth team in Long Branch, N.J. Holy Cross is their first PL game which will be a must win for both schools if they have any hope for a playoff slot. Siena follows with  probable league favorite American and Bucknell a week later.

October 6 is the BIG RIVALRY game with Lafayette which will probably be a must win again, for both schools. In any case, Lehigh is another piece of an ever competitive puzzle for Patriot League fans.

 

 

 

Patriot League Field Hockey Preview…..Holy Cross

The College of the Holy Cross returned to the Patriot League Tournament for the first time in six years last year.  This was a scrambling, hustling team that made the effort count when needed. This will be Coach Linsey Jackson third season. She found players that became contributors even in the most unexpected places. Goalie Marcia LaPlante was not even on the squad at the beginning of camp but Jackson found her on the ice hockey team and asked her to join her team on the turf. She started 15 games getting better at each outing. Her overall stats showed an impressive 80 percent save percentage all season and in the Patriot League. In the Patriot League semi-final against American she faced 30 shots and 16 penalty corners and held American to one goal.

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Leopards are hoping for less scenes like this come  October

Jackson will have her two top scorers return in Junior Emily LoPrete and Senior Maureen Conolly. Of the sixty shots during regular season Patriot League games, the two accounted for thirty six. Interestingly enough, there were few assists recorded by the Crusaders. There were no Crusaders  appearing in the stat sheet for Patriot League leaders for assists.

The Crusaders won their games on fast breaks and reliance on their excellent keeper to give them their 3-3 record in the league. No doubt Jackson will want to strengthen her team with a more diversified attack and stronger field defense. She lost six seniors to graduation but will be taking in 7 new freshman including dutch recruit Minke Koonen. The seven recruits will bring the Crusader squad size to 27.

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Kristen Taylor heads toward the goal against Holy Cross last year

Jackson has improved the schedule including UMass, Quinnipiac, and Temple. Lafayette will be their regular season finale and will be played at Rappolt Field on Saturday Oct 28th at noon.

Patriot League Field Hockey Preview…..Colgate University

The Colgate Raiders and the  Patriot League will welcome a new coach to their ranks in April Cornell who returns home to her native central New York roots. Cornell is no coaching rookie as she has spent the last 11 years at Hofstra as an assistant coach and before that was at the University of New Hampshire. On the playing field, defense was her forte as she was team Captain for UConn as she excelled and lauded for her skills. She has hired Ayla Halus who was a Penn State goalie in 2012 and has been coaching that same position at the University of Indiana.

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Lafayette defends against Colgate last year

Their skills will be tested in this “reconstruction” of the Colgate Field Hockey program. In recognition of the challenges faced, she saw the need to bring in a huge class for her initial year. Thirteen freshmen will be wearing Colgate colors this fall. They will be replacing four seniors and two others who will not be returning. There are few veteran players who could be called shoo-ins, to start in the first game, and I would expect to see many first year players occupying key roles in September.

The statistics bear out the enormity of her task. Colgate scored a total of 6 goals all last season. In Patriot League games, they scored 2. In the meantime Patriot League opponents lit up the scoreboard for 30 goals against them. It wasn’t because their goalkeeping was all that weak. Returning senior goal keeper Maria Krull had a very respectable 72 pct saves percentage even with the onslaught of shots she endured. She was at 72 pct with 427 shots against her last season season along with 155 penalty corners. However, Cornell has recruited a freshman whose high school statistics merited her goal keeper of the year honors in Illinois. Emma Goldberg will provide very good competition for Krull and at the least, will give the Raiders strong back up strength.

Cornell’s other 12 recruits are a geographically diverse group with homes listed in the midwest to North Carolina and New England. Her hopes are high, as she is introducing her class on the Colgate web site two at a time as of this writing. Given the talents of these coaches and the defensive expertise, I expect to see improved defensive statistics next year.

This will be an extraordinary challenge, but new blood brings new attitudes, systems and personnel. Their Patriot League games are probably the toughest games of the season. The first League game will be in Easton against Lafayette on September 16 at noon. That game will be preceded by Umass Lowell, LIU Brooklyn, Saint Louis, Lock Haven, and St. Francis. There will be two Ivy League games later in season against Cornell and Brown.

Patriot League Field Hockey Preview…Bucknell University

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Rising Sophomore M.C. Evans meets with Lafayette’s rising Junior Rachel Bird in last year’s game.

Coach Jeremy Cook returns for his 10th season with a lot experienced players on the field. He lost 5 seniors but has recruited 6 new faces to refill his roster. However, he returns with the core of last year’s team intact. Seniors are always missed but having your top scorers including your goalie back for an encore has got to be considered a plus. Nicole Rupnik, now a junior was tied for second in goals during patriot league games. Emily Finn now the senior goal keeper had a league leading 82 percent save percentage last year. Stephanie Dressler with 41 shots during the regular season and 5 goals was second on the team in offensive stats and is  now part of the strong senior class. Britany Willwerth now a sophomore also returns and was third third leading offensive stat producer.

Overall in the League, Bucknell was third in goals scored  with 10 and second in goals against allowing only 5 goals agains Patriot League foes. They had 90 shots in Patriot play  and led the league in penalty corners with 56.

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Kristen Taylor from Lafayette and Stephanie Dressler will be seeing more of each other in the October 13th meeting

The Bison play a very competitive out of conference schedule, last year meeting  Princeton, Albany, and Syracuse, playing all but Princeton tough They were even in home games last year but had their closest losses against American, Syracuse, and Boston establishing a strong home defense. They beat Lafayette 3-0 in Lewisburg in a must win game for both sides.

This year looks a little easier in out of conference games however,  as they are playing Penn State at home and Maryland in College Park after a game in DC with American. They will also meet perennial power Syracuse in Syracuse on September 2. Eight of their 18 games will be at home. There is a sampling of Ivy League teams with Cornell, and Yale on the schedule as away games.

Goals for this year will include increasing their scoring, and maintaining their strong defensive posture, which all seems in reach. Bucknell traveled to the Netherlands this spring which has given them extra practice time and should be beneficial  to get them off to a strong start.

Bucknell and Lafayette will meet on Friday the 13th in October at 7 pm under the lights. Both teams always seem to meet in crucial games, this will be no exception.

 

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Meanwhile Amanda Magadan, who graduated from Lafayette last June makes a start for the US Team against India in South Africa yesterday.

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Amanda Magadan makes start against India in FIH Semis

Patriot League Field Hockey Preview..Boston University

The Boston University Terriers went to the recruit well to replenish their team, as they lost 8  seniors to graduation, including seniors Amanda Cassera, Hester Van der Laan, and Taylor Blood, who were major contributors. They also lost a senior GK in Cammey Jensen whose  league Goal Keeping stats (save pct .50) were not impressive until you consider a team defense that allowed only 4 goals in all patriot league games ( a .67 goals against average).  Boston took 114 shots against Patrtiot League opponents during the regular season, and scored 22 goals. However 17 of those goals were scored against Colgate (9), Holy Cross (3) and Lehigh (5). Amanda Cassera accounted for 18 shots and 4 goals as their most prolific Patriot League scorer.

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Allie Renzi exchanges hi-fives during game with Bucknell

Returning player Kara Enoch (9 pts) will figure to be a key returnee, as well Allie Renzi, who seems to find the back of the cage in important games for Coach Sally Star, who I believe is entering an amazing 37th year as Head Coach of the Terriers. Star will suit up 21 players as of this writing, with the help of 9 shinny new freshman recruits.  For most teams, that would raise red flags, but Starr has used her recruiting talents to plug some important holes. Most notably, she recruited a freshman goalie, Millie Baker, from Australia, who looks impressive as an older first year freshman with a resume of solid club experience. In addition,  she has another 19 year old freshman  from Perth, Shannon Ma, who will see action in the field no doubt. It is not unusual for US college teams to have older students, who may have college experience in foreign countries. The NCAA allows them to enter US Colleges with freshman status.

Given her personnel situation Starr will be very busy getting ready for the season as Patriot League games will start earlier this year. Their first Patriot League league game will be in Boston against Lafayette on September 23rd. This will be preceded by three away games at Albany, UMass, and UConn.  The terrier schedule is loaded with 6 NCAA tournament teams and has the usual very competitive out of conference schedule. That game on the 23rd will certainly be circled by both the Leopards and the Terriers, anxious to get a leg up on a league tournament spot awarded to the top four teams.

The game may have special significance as Boston will be looking for payback for their 2-1 loss to the Leopards last year in a shootout. Both coaches will have their teams ready for a battle.

First Lafayette Field Hockey Camp Underway

 

One could say that today began the 2017 season for Lafayette Field Hockey. Every year Coach Stone and her staff along with a faculty of top notch players from the US and Overseas  arrive in Easton to begin a two week series of camps. The first of the these camps under the banner of the Total Hockey Field Hockey Camp began today at 12 noon. This camp is run from July 6-8 totally devoted to sharpening individual skills. The current Lafayette Field Hockey team is also in attendance as camp teachers and counselors. The benefit for these young players is to get a taste of division one coaching and the experience of living on campus and playing with other players from across the region and country. They will even get a shot at playing against the current Lafayette squad and instructors in challenge matches in the evening. For rabid fans like me it was my first chance to see many of our first year players on their new home turf.

 

I could already see some team bonding as the recruits ( both arriving this fall and some who have already shown a keen interest in Lafayette in the future)  drilled together, displaying their talents for their new teammates and coaches alike. ( And I suppose for rabid fans like me.) My conclusions……this is a talented group set to arrive on  August 8. I saw speed, stick skills, and “coachability,” as they went through their drills. As an associated person in NCAA parlance, I was unable to interview or welcome any of the five first year players in attendance, but I was able to observe their obvious talent from a distance.

The three Lafayette staff coaches, Jennifer Stone, Sarah Dalrymple, and Emily Janis seemed pleased with what they  saw in the first three hour session. So did I.

After registration between 10:30 and 12, and after a group meeting the approximately 50 athletes boarded a bus to be transported to Rappolt Field which was being sprayed using its automated water system in preparation for the afternoon. The cloudy skies were a blessing as the recent hot spell on the east coast had abated and the athletes could really perform without the disadvantage of excessive heat. They broke into groups with the field players breaking off from the goalkeepers as each unit began practicing  basic skills under the watchful eye of the camp instructors.

At the end of the first session they boarded a bus to be chauffeured to campus where they will be able to sample the meals at the Farinon Meal Court at 4;30 and  prepare for team 11 v 11 games scheduled for 6;15-9:15. At 9:15 the lights are turned on for the first challenge games, Staff vs Campers. They will board a bus back to campus at 9:45 and will have chance to visit the campus store before a room check at 10:30.

Our intrepid campers will rise at 7 am tomorrow and after a hearty breakfast transportation is ready to take everyone to the field in time for speed and agility training at 9 am. At 9;30 it’s skill development again before departing for lunch. At 1:15 a one hour group session is scheduled with the sports psychologist before training session again at 2:45. A video session is schedule for 4:30 before the evening games begin at 6;15.

Saturday ends the session with final games scheduled for 9-11 in a 7 v7 format . It is a full plate but only a warm up for the season for these high school stars and for five of our seven recruits, Eva Kaplan, Grace Angelella, Greta Kullby, Sophie Carr and Lola Dada. Anna Steps from Germany and Audrey Sawers from British Columbia  will be there on Aug 8.

For me, this was the beginning of the season as some of the Lafayette class of 2021 has had their first taste of Leopard Field Hockey.

Next up, the continuation of the Patriot League with review of  Boston University.