Field Hockey Poised for NESCAC Title Run
Issue   |   Thu, 08/28/2014 - 17:32
Rob Mattson
Forward Katie Paolano ’16 had 12 goals and five assists last season. The junior looks to add to this total this year.

After dropping their first two matches of 2013 in overtime the Amherst field hockey team rattled off 13 consecutive victories, en route to the program’s first-ever number-one seed in the NESCAC tournament. Their impressive run was cut short by just one goal, falling to Middlebury 1-0 in last year’s semifinal. After being snubbed by the NCAA tournament selection committee, this year’s goal is obvious.

The Jeffs will have to replace the contributions of three seniors, including two first-team All-NESCAC players in Alex Philie ’14 and Krista Zsitvay ’14. However, they have a strong core group returning with goalkeeper and All-NESCAC second-team honoree Rachel Tannenbaum ’15 and fellow second-team nominee Madeline Tank ’15 leading the squad.

Surrendering just 19 goals on the year, the fourth best number in the NESCAC, Tannenbaum posted three shutouts and a .782 save percentage in her junior campaign. Tank led the offense with a 30-point season highlighted by a team high of 13 goals and four assists.

The team’s leadership will remain strong, as head coach Carol Knerr returns for her 14th season at the helm. Knerr earned 2013 NESCAC Coach of the Year honors, leading the team to a 9-1 conference record.

“We will take things one day at a time and make sure we make the most of our practices,” Knerr said. “We will stay focused in the moment and challenge ourselves to be the best team we can be.”

The incoming first-year class boasts six newcomers, a group that Tannenbaum comments will be “an important component to our success.”

Other offensive standouts include juniors Annika Nygren and Katie Paolano, who amassed a combined 22 goals and seven assists in 2013. Key defenders Annie Turnbull ’16 and Sydney Watts ’17 will also return to aid Tannenbaum in the team’s defensive efforts.

The Jeffs travel to open the season on Wednesday, Sept. 3 against Conn. College, a team they beat handily, 6-0, last year. The regular season opener will be followed by an away rematch of last year’s heartbreaking NESCAC semifinal against Middlebury on Sunday, Sept. 6. The Jeffs also fell to the Panthers in the 2013 regular season matchup by a 4-3 score in overtime.
Gooding Field will see its first field hockey action of 2014 the following week when Amherst hosts Mount Holyoke on Tuesday, Sept. 9.

“The NESCAC is one of the toughest conferences in the country, so preparation in preseason and continued training throughout the season will be essential to emerging as a top contender,” Knerr noted. “After a disappointing end to last year’s season, we are psyched to reemerge and take the NESCAC by storm. We can’t wait to start the 2014 season.”