HANOVER, N.H. – The summer is over. As student-athletes return to the campus, the Dartmouth field hockey team is already in the midst of its preseason, preparing for the 2014 schedule that lies ahead.
In all, 19 individuals from nine states and four countries will make up this year’s Big Green squad that is slated to play 17 regular season games this fall.
Dartmouth will look to build on a 7-10 campaign from a year ago that included a 3-4 record in Ivy League contests. The loss of six seniors from that team certainly leaves a void as it does every year with the most experienced players exhausting their eligibility and moving on with other endeavors.
However, there is reason for optimism as head coach Amy Fowler and her staff have pieced together a roster that is littered with talent, experience and depth.
“I am very excited to get the 2014 campaign underway. The groundwork that began back in late November should prove to be our biggest advantage as we head into the upcoming season,” Fowler remarked.
The success of the team will begin with a core group of seniors who lead by example. Rebecca Hu, Janine Leger, Ali Savage and Ellen Meyer have all been key players in their time since arriving on campus in 2011.
Fowler has said that she expects Hu and Leger to continue to be stalwarts in the midfield, while Savage — a regional All-American and a now two-time First Team All-Ivy League selection — should continue to be a force on the team’s first-line of attack. At the other end of the field, Meyer promises to continue to develop as the team’s No. 1 goalkeeper after taking over the reins in 2013.
“This group of seniors, though small in number, packs a powerful punch with their attitude, work ethic and experience,” Fowler said. “All four have shown a great deal of leadership through our spring season and over the summer and that will help to propel us to a more focused and effective start to the year.”
Those looking to the senior leaders for guidance include eight returners — four juniors and four sophomores — and seven members of the freshman class. Fowler commented at the start of preseason how pleased she had been with the diligence regarding both fitness and training of all 19 players reporting for camp, a facet of the off-season plan that was earmarked as a main priority.
Along with Meyer, sophomore Paige Duffy makes up the second half of Dartmouth’s goalkeeping tandem. Duffy was praised for making significant strides in her play during the team’s spring exhibition slate. The veterans playing in front of Meyer and Duffy will be juniors Brooke Van Valkenburg, Clare Detrick-Yee and Jessica Barfield as well as sophomore Heather Zezzo. New to the defensive unit are freshmen Laura Donald, Morgan Philie and Maggie Sherin.
“The defensive end may offer us our toughest challenge, as we did lose much of our experience to the graduation of Olivia Quaglia, Victoria Tersigni, and Jenn Weissbach, who all played significant minutes during their careers,” Fowler said. “Heavy in defensive numbers, a few backs could see time on other lines, but we’ll be evaluating those options as preseason progresses.”
If the defensive unit is the biggest variable heading into the season, the midfield should prove to be the most solid as it has the greatest level of experience of any area on this year’s roster.
Hu, Leger, junior Eliza Becker and sophomore Joanne Nazareth are all back and showcase the Big Green’s wealth of depth at the position. Hu and Leger have been starters since arriving on campus and both are dynamic players who possess a great deal of talent and experience. Entering her third season, Becker might be one of the most underrated players in the Ivy League despite earning second team all-conference honors as a sophomore last season. Additionally, Nazareth — the team’s 2013 Rookie of the Year — is also key to the Big Green’s midfield prowess. Freshmen newcomers Anna Ewasechko, Anna Rowthorn-Apel and Sarah Tabeek are also expected to contribute when given the opportunity this fall. Fowler also said that each rookie could see some forward action along with Leger.
“Janine and these three rookies are versatile and will offer a great skills set on either line,” Fowler commented.
Finally, the supremely talented Savage should once again lead Dartmouth offensively in the attacking end of the field. The Australian native finished last season tied for the league lead in both points (39) and assists (9), while second in goals (15). Her 39 points were three shy of tying Dartmouth’s single-season record of 42 and ranked tied for fourth. The 15 goals were the sixth-best output by any Big Green player in four decades of play with 12 coming via four hat tricks, helping Savage tie both the program’s single-season mark (4) as well as the career record (6). For the second straight season, she was unanimously selected to the All-Ivy League First Team.
Looking to complement Savage will be sophomore Jenna Schwenk and freshman Julia Donald. Both have good speed, stick skills and a goal-scoring knack to aid in the team’s attacking efforts. The expectations are that that unit will also provide an excellent first line of defense through their pressing tactics.
“We expect Jenna and Julia to be effective additions to our attacking unit,” Fowler remarked. “There are also a handful of other swing players who we anticipate seeing minutes up front. Flexibility for many women on the squad will be key.”
The season kicks off with a pair of games at Northwestern’s Lakeside Field on Sept. 5-6. Dartmouth will take on the Wildcats on Friday at 1 p.m. EST before playing Louisville the following afternoon in a neutral-site game also at 1 p.m. EST. The Big Green open the home portion of the schedule on Tuesday, Sept. 9 against a familiar foe as former long-time assistant coach Andy Smith returns to Hanover as the head coach of Pacific. The Tigers and Big Green tangle at Chase AstroTurf Field in a rare 11:30 a.m. contest.