Field Hockey Hoping to Take NESCAC Leap
Issue   |   Fri, 08/31/2012 - 13:20

Coming off one of the best years in school history, field hockey looks primed to continue their success this season with a strong group of returning players. The Lord Jeffs were three wins away from a national title last year, and they’ll try to improve on that mark while playing a challenging NESCAC schedule.

The team has shown steady improvement over the past couple of seasons and took a major step forward last year. After ending a nine-year drought by making the NCAA tournament in 2009, the Lord Jeffs returned to the NCAA’s again in 2011. Head coach Carol Knerr credits this success in part to team chemistry: “We have worked hard to establish a culture of hard work and a positive team dynamic. These are qualities the team takes great pride in.”

Last year, the Lord Jeffs advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the second time in program history, only to fall to a tough Middlebury team. The team outshot the Panthers 14-8 and held a 16-5 advantage in penalty corners but couldn’t find the net, suffering a 1-0 loss.

The Lord Jeffs return three of their top four goal scorers from that historic squad in Katie McMahon ’13, Krista Zsitvay ’14 and Alex Phillie ’14, who combined for over half of the team’s points. The team will be solid at the back as well, with netminder Rachel Tannenbaum ’15 returning from a season that saw her win NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors on the strength of eight shutouts and a .072 GAA.

This year’s team should be further boosted by first-years looking to make instant contributions to the team. “We have a talented first-year class and we are hoping some will step up and make an immediate impact,” Knerr said.

The Lord Jeffs’ stiffest competition may well come from inside the NESCAC, which Knerr calls “arguably the strongest conference in Division III” and has five teams in the top 15 of the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) preseason poll. Bowdoin has won three of the last five NCAA championships and enters the season ranked second, while Tufts and Trinity come in at 14th and 15th.

“Every game is a battle and the difficult regular season schedule helps to prepare us for competitive post season play,” Knerr said.

Middlebury, which played spoiler in both the NESCAC and NCAA championships for Amherst, sits in the number three spot after falling in the NCAA championship game last year, and the 12th-ranked Lord Jeffs will look to avenge last year’s season-ending loss on Sept. 23 when they travel to Vermont to face the Panthers.

“I think we are very excited for redemption against Middlebury, Hamilton and Bowdoin [the only teams to defeat the Lord Jeffs last year] specifically,” said co-captain McMahon ’13, who also noted that “we try to approach each game with the same level of energy and excitement regardless of the opponent.”

With an established culture of success, the team is ready to continue chasing postseason accomplishments. “I think we are really hoping to pick up from where we left off last fall and continue on our upward trajectory, which includes the pursuit to succeed in the NCAA and NESCAC tournaments,” McMahon ’13 said.