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Field Hockey Outlook
Change is never easy. With its return to the Division I league after a 13-year hiatus, the Lady Retrievers of UMBC's field hockey team know this all too well. After converting the four-year-old club team into a Division I contender, UMBC finished the 2000 season with a 0-11 record and last place in the NEC.
This year, however, results from the 2001 NEC Field Hockey Preseason Coaches Poll predict a sixth place finish for UMBC - a step above last season’s final marks. "We will surprise people," said Kristy Hartman, who is returning to coach the Retrievers for a fifth year. "I want to see what the NEC says. I know that we are a team now, but I don't think our competitors recognize that yet."
The Lady Retrievers found the beginning of the Fall 2000 season a challenge, as players adapted to numerous changes while also getting accustomed to turf play. Last year, the Retrievers spent most practices running drills and other training exercises. "You can't start from club to D-I and implement all this discipline. It's overwhelming," said Hartman.
During the Spring 2001 off-season, a more experienced team emerged, and the Retrievers were able to train while also learning new strategies on the field. "The ladies have developed a confidence and maturity in their play that proved itself when the team held their own against long-established programs such as Georgetown, Catholic, and American," said returning Assistant Coach Meredith Diamond. "Going into our second year of D-I competition is a very exciting time."
This year, a new look for the UMBC field hockey team includes the addition of eight freshmen, each bringing specific strengths. "As a class overall, I couldn't ask for a better mix," said Coach Hartman. More than half of the newcomers were participants in the Field Hockey Futures Olympic Development Program. On the front line will be Our Lady of Good Counsel’s 2000 MVP, Kristin Ramsay, as well as Baltimore Sun All-County First Team pick Megan Atkinson. Joining them will be Howard County three-time leading scorer, Kathleen Jackson. At midfield, Jennifer Rowe, Elkton High’s 2000 Valedictorian and Best All Around Senior Athlete, is expected to start.
According to Coach Hartman, the team's new defensive anchor might be Cecille Banas, a speedy freshman who plays an 'offensive defense.' Alongside her will be PA State All Star and class salutatorian Leslie Chilcote, as well as newcomer Rebecca Schaller. Freshman Meghan Polek will battle for playing time at the goal.
Returners for the 2001 season include senior co-captains Julie Pettit and Carrye Campbell. Pettit, a determined player who had been on UMBC's club team, has enough leadership experience and strong stick skills that allow Coach Hartman to position her either at attack or as a sweeper. On the other hand, Campbell, who suffered a season-ending injury last year, has made a commitment to come back as a better and stronger midfielder. Joining her in the middle will be sophomore Alycia Downs.
Expected to start as an attacker will be senior Melissa Bragg, whose level of play has increased within the past year. “She is consistent and a standout,” said Coach Hartman about the Annapolis native. Slated for the remaining forward spots will be two-time Calvert County leading scorer Caitlin Galligan and Molly Buzdygon.
Among those also competing for playing time at the front line will be Amanda Bile, a relentless sophomore forward and Jessica Hall. “J Hall is coming of an injury and her tenacity is definitely going to show,” said Hartman.
Defensively, for the Retrievers, positions vacated by graduates Simone Stalling and Susan Mancho will be filled by Bernadette Cullen and Jessica Goodwin, a solid defender who has developed into Division I player through hard work. Lauren Olszewski, who last season, earned the team’s Most Improved Player of the Year Award, will also return. In the goalkeeper position, Karalyn Krieger, who had a great 2000 season with a 77% save percentage, is expected to start.
"I'm very excited about the quality of players this year," said Hartman. I know we're going to win games."
UMBC will be the host of this year’s NEC Field Hockey Tournament, scheduled to take place on October 26 and 28 at UMBC Stadium. The top four teams in the regular season standings will advance to the championship event. The winner of the NEC tournament will then advance to an NCAA Tournament play-in game.