In about two weeks the 2022 version of the Field Hockey Leopards will play their first spring game. Coach Jennifer Stone has released dates and opponents for this spring’s competitions and she has not been reticent in making sure it’ll be tough enough to be worthy of the ability of Lafayette. It includes NCAA qualifiers and a team who during season was ranked number one in nation.
For the first game, the Leopards will travel to Philadelphia to meet the Temple Owls on March 27th for a 1 pm meeting. Last year, Stone’s charges won a 1-0 game late in season. ( As an aside Lehigh will be playing Temple the day before,) On April 3rd Lafayette will host two other teams, Monmouth and Syracuse. Syracuse of course is an ACC rival while Monmouth will be joining the CAA. Six days later it’s back to Philadelphia for a challenging afternoon on April 9 playing a very good St. Joseph team and perennial Big Ten power Penn State, who beat the Leopard 3-1 last fall.
The challenges keep coming as Rutgers travels to the Lehigh Valley and Rappolt Field on April 15 for a 7pm night game. Rutgers was ranked number one last year when the Leopards lost by one goal in the last regular season game in October. The last game of the spring will again be in Philly on April 23rd at UPenn with the University of Delaware joining the festivities.
Coach Stone and the Leopards will be looking for the formula to break through and bring its first championship to Easton in ten years. Last year the Leopards were thwarted in 1-2 loss to American in Washington, DC. Lafayette also lost on September 18 to American in a regular season contest in overtime 0-1.
The Patriot League will be improving as Lehigh has also been knocking on the door as they lost to American in the semi-final 0-1. Lehigh has become more competitive and will be traveling to Lafayette this year. I can also believe that Boston University will also improve as they also will be visiting Lafayette in the fall. Bucknell has a new coach and will be trying to avenge a 2-3 two overtime loss in the regular season and 3-4 exciting overtime loss in the PL semi-final. Having a successful regular season record and hosting the championship game has to be a goal for the Leopards in the coming campaign.
The Leopards will look to replace many key players due to graduation but will still see a veteran team on the field this spring and perhaps 5-7 new recruits. Molly McAndrews will be returning for her Covid season and will be there leading a diversified offense. Leneke Spanns, a fan favorite will be there to spark the offense with her super speed and competitiveness to please the home fans. Alden Boccella a hero of the Bucknell semi-final game will be back with even more experience and playing time to drive opponents nuts. If that isn’t enough, Felcitas Hannes adds her strong shooting skills to bother opposing goalkeepers!
However the defense will also be stout with Simone Hefting providing strength and leadership. Shea Balderson, India Ralph, Alex Darrah,and veteran Sydney Woolston adds to the wall. One key position will be GK, as Emma Garvey steps in. She will be featured in the spring games this year, which will give her the experience and confidence to anchor that position. I will note that she had a fine spring last year and looks to me to be up to the challenge.
The midfield and transition game is solid with the aforementioned Bocella and boosted by Filine Gerbrandji. Today’s Field Hockey game requires solid players to step up and Ariel Schumacher, Carly Kreytak, Alex Darah, Mackenzie Hall, Laine Delmomte and Alexandra Conway are true division one athletes and proved it last year. The spring will be a great opportunity for them to step up!!
One addition could be Tara Hamilton who suffered a knee injury in the Delaware scrimmage last year. Her return could make our offense truly awesome.
I really don’t think I am being just a homer, but I feel this team could be one of our great teams. The preseason predictions have always passed by the Leopards ( even during our consecutive championships) but this team certainly deserves to be challenger for the championship. I can see them as a top twenty team given the work I believe these young athletes will put in between now and August. I am pumped for the spring!!!!