The Wheaton College field hockey team reached double-figures in wins for the fourth time in five seasons in 2010, posting a 13-8 mark while winning six New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) games for the third time in four seasons. Now in her 12th season at the helm of the program, Rebecca Begley is looking for her team to take the next step after being eliminated in the NEWMAC Semifinals one year ago.
The Lyons return 16 student-athletes from last season's squad that averaged close to four goals a game. With such an experienced group of returners, Begley said camp has run extremely smooth, with the majority of players familiar with the style and tempo of play she expects.
"We have a small but talented group of players that each bring something unique to the program," said Begley. "With seven seniors, the leadership is in place to lead by example. Because of the high skill set of our student-athletes, competition for starting positions has been and will continue to be exciting to watch and evaluate. The players push each other daily in practice to be better. We are looking forward to what this season brings us and which players will develop and grow throughout the fall season. Three months is a long time...anything can happen."
Offensively, Wheaton averaged close to four goals a game last season and saw 10 student-athletes record at least 10 points - eight of whom return in 2011. Seniors Emily Asack (Stoughton, Mass./Stoughton) and Aliza Underhill (Corinth, Maine/Central), along with sophomore Jenna Rocha (Rehoboth, Mass./Dighton-Rehoboth Regional), combined for 26 goals and 64 points last season, and the hope is that they are able to improve upon those numbers.
The Lyons will also count on senior Carmela Luzi (Southbury, Conn./Pomperaug Regional), sophomore Eliza Kennedy (Madison, Conn./Tabor Academy), and freshman Tracy McCann (Westerly, R.I./Canterbury School) to produce offensively. Luzi potted six goals as a junior while Kennedy recorded four points (1-2-4) in 21 games (15 starts) a year ago. McCann has impressed in camp and should be a fixture on the front line for the next four years.
"We ran 14 deep in scoring last year, so we don't really rely on any individual player," said Begley. "The scouting report on us is that it's hard to mark any one player. We play six deep at forward, so we're going to rely on a lot of people to put it in the pack of the net."
Sophomore Emily Chick (Bangor, Maine/Bangor) started all 21 games as a freshman and finished fifth in scoring with 22 points (8-6-22) at right wing. In the midfield, classmate Victoria Studley (Seekonk, Mass./Wheeler School) will compete for a starting position with freshman Sarah McNicholas (Boxborough, Mass./Acton-Boxboro). Juniors Gillian Mann (Burlington, Vt./Williston Northampton School) - who started all 21 games last season - and Azza Reineman (Manchester, Mass./Pomfret School) round out the midfield.
"The coaching staff is pleased with the team's progress during preseason and how they played at our annual play day," said Begley. "Our team goal is to get better every day, and the players have held true to that each day at preseason camp."
The backfield consists of seniors Bonnie Davies (Roxbury, Conn./Shepaug Valley), Emily Arena (Northfield, Mass./Northfield Mount Hermon School), Kathyrn Ende (Hallowell, Maine/Hall-Dale), and Tierney Richardson (North Attleboro, Mass./North Attleboro), juniors Alex Smith (Suffield, Conn./Suffield) and Kirsten Russell (Cumberland, Maine/Greely), and freshman Andrea Winn (Needham, Mass./Westwood). Each of these student-athletes will compete for a starting role and play a pivotal role in the team's success in 2011.
Davies notched 14 points (3-8-14) in 21 starts last year while Richardson returns to the backfield after posting 10 points (4-2-10) as a forward last season. Smith, meanwhile, appeared in 19 games in 2010, Arena played in 15 contests (nine starts), Ende participated in 15 contests, and Russell appeared in six.
In goal, sophomore Ellie Massengill (Amherst, Mass./Amherst Regional) returns for her second season after going 11-7 with a 3.32 goals against average (GAA) and a .665 save percentage last season. She recorded a pair of shutouts against Rivier and Clark, and will be pushed by freshman Madison Wolters (Marstons Mills, Mass./Barnstable) for the starter's role.
The Lyons open the 2011 season on Thursday, Sept. 1 when they travel south to play Drew University at Trinity, then head north to face a pair of conference champions in University of New England and Husson. Wheaton's schedule also features non-conference games against Elmira (Sept. 10), Daniel Webster (Sept. 11), Simmons (Sept. 17), Bridgewater State (Sept. 25), Anna Maria (Oct. 2), Skidmore (Oct. 16), and Union (Oct. 29) in the regular season finale. The Lyons begin NEWMAC play on Sept. 17 against WPI.
"We're excited to start the season against such strong competition," said Begley. "We're looking forward to another exciting, successful season of Wheaton College field hockey."