August 28, 2013

Season Preview: Field hockey features new faces but same high expectations

HAVERFORD, Pa. – The Haverford College field hockey team will feature an array of new faces in 2013 but expectations remain high as the Fords look to stay in the upper echelon of the highly competitive Centennial Conference.

Haverford qualified for the conference tournament for the fourth consecutive year in 2012 and it has an eye on a return trip to the playoffs despite losing several key contributors to graduation in the spring. The conference coaches agree that the Fords will still a force to be reckoned with as Haverford was picked third in the Centennial's preseason coaches poll.

"The 2013 season is going to be exciting and a new experience for a lot of players," said head coach Jackie Cox. "We graduated six starters who were all major contributors to the program for four years so we will have some important spots to fill. That being said, I know we have a lot of talented players who have been waiting for their chance to break through into the starting lineup and have been under the radar."

Cox, in her fourth year at the helm, will rely on a handful of veteran players to provide the foundation for a successful season in 2013. "We have a handful of returning players who have a lot of game experience under their belts and I am confident that they will be great leaders," offered Cox.

Senior Bryn Bissey and juniors Jen DiMaria and Catherine Aronowitz are key returners on attack. Bissey was one of just 12 players in the conference to reach double figures in goals in 2012 as she scored a career-high 10 including four game winners. Aronowitz ( 7 goals, 1 assist) and DiMaria (6 g, 2 a) finished fourth and fifth on the team in scoring, respectively.

Providing support from the midfield will be senior Megan Holt and sophomore Sarah Waldis. Holt tied for fifth on the team in goals scored with six while Waldis chipped in with three assists and a team-high three defensive saves during a solid freshman campaign.

Junior Brooke Kelly and sophomore Allison Martin, who each saw time in 16 contests last season, lead a solid defensive unit in front of sophomore goalie Lindsey Lopes. Cox is confident in Lopes, who made two appearances and one start in 2012, assuming the starting position. "She is ready for the job," declared Cox.

Despite the new faces, Cox feels Haverford will still be in the mix as long as the younger players embrace their opportunities. "We have the skill to compete this year but we will need to count on some younger players to step up and gain that confidence quickly," offered Cox. "I am very excited for this season and I look forward to seeing new players in new positions and to see the team work as a unit."

The Fords were ranked in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFCHA) top-20 national poll every week of the season in 2012 and are receiving votes in the NFCHA preseason poll.  Look for this year's squad to try and continue to establish a name for the program outside the confines of the Centennial. A challenging schedule, featuring 2012 NCAA participants Rowan University, Messiah College, Franklin & Marshall College and Eastern University, will afford Haverford the chance once again to make its mark.

The 2013 season begins with a non-conference contest against New Jersey Athletic Conference runner-up Rowan, on Aug. 31. Centennial action heats up when the calendar turns from September to October as the Fords face three consecutive games against fellow conference 2012 playoff participants. Haverford heads to Gettysburg College on Sept. 28 before hosting Ursinus College on Oct. 5. The treacherous stretch ends with a trip to Lancaster, Pa., on Oct. 5 to take on defending conference champion Franklin & Marshall College at Tylus Field.

"The entire conference continues to build and become more competitive each year, the games will get tougher, but I think the team is ready to step up and prove itself again," forecasted Cox.