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Field Hockey Outlook
The UMBC field hockey team has met challenges every year since returning to the Division I level in 2000. This year is no different.
After finishing the season at 0-11 in their first year, the Retrievers took great strides the following season, ending the season at 4-10. In 2002, UMBC continued their upward progression, finishing the year at 6-10, and narrowly missing the four-team Northeast Conference Championship field with a 5-7 league record.
This year, the Retrievers will be faced with the challenge of competing in the America East Conference, one of the toughest leagues in Division I field hockey. "We have gotten better every year, and we are once again, forced to step up our play," said Head Coach Kristy Hartman. "It's a big step - more elite than the previous steps, but it doesn't mean we won't be competitive."
This season, Hartman brings in the largest incoming group of freshmen, creating the biggest team in program history. "I know that we will have plenty of youth, but the team also has strong role models who are dedicated and who always keep a positive attitude," Hartman said. "They will provide great leadership for a young team.
Hartman believes that the strongest area for the Retrievers this year will be the midfield as they will have plenty of depth. Junior tri-captain Jen Rowe, who has started every game during her two-year career, will serve as the leader in the middle. Joining her will be classmate Leslie Chilcote, whose smart play and maneuverability allowed Hartman to move her from last year's defensive position, and senior Alycia Downs, whose three years of Division I experience should help maintain team confidence and composure while at play. Newcomers who will provide more depth in the midfield include Julie Moore, Caitlin Caldwell, and Kristi Troster, all of whom possess enough athleticism, quickness and impressive pass placement skills to compete for a starting role. Moore, one of the most talented incoming freshmen, qualified for B camp this past summer, and thus became a step closer to being a part of the national team.
In defense, junior tri-captain Cecile Banas, a Second Team All-Northeast Conference defender in 2002, is expected to anchor the back along with senior tri-captain Bernadette Cullen, who has been with the program since its return to the Division I level in 2000. Surrounding them will be plenty of youth, which could include sophomores Tiffany Deinzer, Katie Baker, Tracey Boettinger and Jill Welsch, as well as freshmen Jordan Swaim and Davina Waller. Although Deinzer and Baker both have strong defensive skills, neither experienced very much game pressure last year, and therefore, would need to adjust to the increased demands of the America East conference. Boettinger, who did not have a chance to play in 2002, has been working hard to improve her stick skills in order to see some playing time for the upcoming season, while the talents of newcomers Welsch, Swaim, and Waller provide more depth for the Retrievers.
Rounding out the back are goalkeepers Meghan Polek and Laura Motley. Polek, who played every minute of every game as a sophomore in 2002, is once again slated to be the starting keeper. "She's becoming a much more vocal defensive leader," said Hartman. "She stepped up a lot for use last year, but she will be challenged again this year as America East schools take more shots, statistically, than the Northeast Conference schools." Motley, a four-year letter-winner with the UMBC women's soccer team, will join the field hockey squad for her final year, and will vie for playing time at the net.
On attack, returning players Kristin Ramsay, Katie Cutchall, Amanda Heinz, and Sara Gray will be looked on to lead the offense. Ramsay, who had a hip injury in 2002, feels healthy this year, and has a positive outlook on the season, while Cutchall, who received much playing time previously, should feel comfortable returning to the field. Joining them will be newcomers Catelyn Smith and Rebekah Krolus. Hartman hopes that Smith, who had a record of scoring game-winners and clutch goals in high school, will do the same for UMBC. Finally, junior Kathleen Jackson, a consistent contributor to the UMBC offense, is nursing an injury and will take a medical red-shirt for the season.
Hartman hopes that a competitive non-conference schedule, which includes Colgate, Radford, LaSalle, and Towson, should prepare the Retrievers for the improved attacking ability of the opposing league teams. To begin conference play, UMBC will face two-time defending America East champion Northeastern. "With a single-round robin format, unlike the previous years, the players will be forced to take every game more seriously," said Hartman. "Hopefully, it will induce the drive and motivation that we need to instill the team confidence necessary to face this new challenge."