NORTON, Mass. - For the first time in the history of the Wheaton College field hockey program, the Lyons will call a turf field home, as the Blue and White are slated to host six games at Lincoln's School's Faxon Field in Rehoboth after playing on a grass surface at Clark Field.
Along with what she believes is her most talented senior class as a whole, 11th-year head Rebecca Begley expects her 21-member team to be more competitive on the artificial surface. Wheaton went 6-12 overall and 2-6 in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) in 2009. Six of its 12 losses came by a single goal, including five straight in the league.
"We've addressed many areas from last year," said Begley, whose goal is to compete for the league title. "One was our fitness level, as our team didn't arrive in shape last year. Skill level is higher this year than it was last year, depth is deeper this year than last, and the surface has been resolved. All the key components that were contributing factors a year ago have been addressed."
Wheaton's four-player senior class tied for second during the NEWMAC's regular season in both 2007 and 2008 with conference tournament semifinal finishes each year. With that core group looking to get back in the championship hunt, Begley is excited by what she has seen thus far.
"My senior class is at a place where they get it, they do things without being asked," said Begley. "They've set a bar where they don't expect anything from others that they don't expect of themselves. I believe that's the best sign of leadership. The fact they're willing to change positions their senior year for the betterment of the team speaks volumes about this group."
All four seniors are expected to start, with Julia Atwood (Concord, Mass./Brooks School) and co-captains Margaux Bolte (Belmont, Mass./Belmont) and Jessica Strock (Centerville, Mass./Barnstable) positioned on the midfield line. Strock was named a National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) all-region player after scoring seven goals and assisting three others in 2009. Ashley English (Watertown, Mass./Watertown) will be a starting back.
Junior Emily Asack (Stoughton, Mass./Stoughton) and freshmen Emily Chick (Bangor, Maine/Bangor) and Jenna Rocha (Rehoboth, Mass./Dighton-Rehoboth Regional) comprise the starting forward slots. Asack led last year's team with 12 goals and seven assists.
Juniors Carmela Luzi (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug Regional), Tierney Richardson (North Attleboro, Mass./North Attleboro) and Aliza Underhill (Corinth, Maine/Central) should see considerable time on the forward line.
Junior Bonnie Davies (Roxbury, Conn./Shepaug Valley), sophomores Gillian Mann (Burlington, Vt./Williston Northampton School) and Alex Smith (Suffield, Conn./Suffield), and freshman Eliza Kennedy (Madison, Conn./Tabor Academy) are vying for starting roles in the backfield, while first-year goalie Ellie Massengill (Amherst, Mass./Amherst Regional) will get the nod in the cage.
Junior Emily Arena (Northfield, Mass./Northfield Mount Hermon School), who played two years at Saint Lawrence University in New York, and freshmen Laura Petschek (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale) and Victoria Studley (Seekonk, Mass./Wheeler School) complete the roster.
Wheaton opens its season Thursday against Salve Regina University at Gaudet Field in Middletown, Rhode Island. Playing their initial five games on the road, including a two-game stint in New Jersey, the Lyons also face the 10th- and 11th-ranked teams in the country on the road in Skidmore College and Bowdoin College, respectively. Wheaton travels to Bowdoin on October 10 and Skidmore on October 30.