By MIKEY BARNES
A double-overtime goal by Salisbury University after a total of 97 minutes played in the Capital Athletic Conference championship game is what ended the season for the University of Mary Washington field hockey team in 2015. The heartbreaking finish to the team’s season kept them out of the NCAA tournament last year though they finished the season ranked 11th in the country.
Despite losing some of their key players, including the all-time leading points holder, goal scorer and one of the top assist producers in the program’s history. So, to say they lost some core players, is surely an understatement. With that being said, the very successful program last season had a number of returners this season and welcomed a strong group of newcomers. Head coach Lindsey Elliott is in her sixth season as the head coach of the program and has led the program to a ranking of at least 14th every single season.
This season, Elliott is looking to have greater success than last season and lead the program to a Capital Athletic Conference championship and an NCAA tournament berth, both for the first time since 2012. Elliott and the Eagles are on potential track to do just that, as the rather young team is currently ranked 17th in the nation with Christine Loehr as the lone senior in the program.
“Being the lone senior is hard sometimes, but I am thankful to be in this position because it’s allowed me to really step up as a leader,” Loehr said, “especially having a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the team. I feel like I can be a good example to them both on and off the field.”
The freshman and sophomore heavy team is currently ranked 17th in the nation and are 6-3 thus far on the season, with all three of their losses coming to ranked opponents, including a 3-2 loss by the hands of 5th ranked Franklin & Marshall.
The Eagles started the season off with a bang, with a 3-0 victory over Dickinson College. The wheels briefly fell off for the Eagles as two of their next three games were against ranked opponents, including 5th ranked Franklin & Marshall and 18th ranked Rochester, N.Y., which then resulted in them becoming 2-2 on the season. The Eagles opened up the floodgates as they went on to win the remaining three games, including a 7-2 victory over Bridgewater at their home field.
The Eagles were then shut out by the 7th ranked Tufts University Jumbos 2-0, to drop them to 5-3 on the season. The Eagles followed that defeat with an absolute debacle of their opponent.
While still at Tufts University, the Eagles competed against Framingham St. The Eagles defeated Framingham by a score of 13-0, including scores by 11 different UMW athletes, including two goals scored each by junior Erin Kaila and Loehr. The Eagles outmatched their opponent more than just goals, UMW led in shots attempted by a lot, including the 42 attempts by them and the three accredited to their opponent.
When asked what it takes to continue to be successful, junior Noor Varjabedian said, “Holding ourselves to a high standard has helped us continue to be successful. There’s always been a high level of intensity when we play….we don’t settle for less because we know what we’re capable of.”
Their game and scoring distribution is a rather accurate description of the season for the Eagles as 14 different players have scored so far on the season including seven of them scoring multiple times.
Freshman Lauren Hopkins has had little struggles adjusting to the collegiate level of competition as she currently leads the program with nine goals on the season, just one more than Loehr, who has eight so far on the year. Hopkins also leads the team in points, as she has 23 on the season due to the five assists she has given out.
Sophomore Jessica Cavolt has been a force to be reckoned with in front of the net, as just nine goals have been scored and 25 saves have been made, with a save percentage of .735, this means the opponent is scoring just over one goal a game, as nothing gets behind her or in her net.
The younger Eagles led by Varjabedian and Loehr are looking to take the conference by storm. “Our goal is to win the CAC Championship and get the automatic bid to the NCAAs,” Loehr said. “This is our goal almost every year because we know that we can do it if we work together.”
The Eagles were scheduled to return to action Wednesday Sept. 28, but due to rain and lighting, the game was postponed away at Catholic University. UMW will begin their conference play at Salisbury University on Oct. 1 as they prepare to redeem themselves from last seasons disappointing finale defeat.