Around the conference: Field hockey


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Courtesy: Rider Athletics

Courtesy: Rider Athletics

As the new school year begins optimism surrounds the 2014 season for the Quinnipiac Bobcats field hockey team. The defending 2013 MAAC champions opened their season with two loses to nationally ranked Boston College and Lafayette. With conference play yet to begin the teams of the MAAC still have time to prepare. Among Quinnipiac’s opponents in the MAAC are Monmouth, Bryant, and Rider. Preseason projections have Monmouth and Rider expected to give the reigning champs a run for their money and try to take the crown from Quinnipiac who are once again projected to sit atop the conference in 2014.

Monmouth has started their season 1-1 after a win against Missouri State and a loss to Bucknell. The Monmouth Hawks, coached by Carli Figlio, are coming off a disappointing 6-12 season but have an exciting new freshman on the team which could add the spark this team needs to make a run. Maartje Wicherink, a freshman from the Netherlands has been named MAAC rookie of the week. Wichernik scored three goals in the opening weekend while the Hawks split the two games to start the season.  In fact, Monmouth’s team consists of ten incoming freshman who are expected to have big roles on this young team. A young core of players could spell a new exciting season or it could be a learning season with little success.

The Rider field hockey team finished it’s 2013 campaign with a 13-7 record and its fifth straight conference regular season title, the Rider Broncs, along with Quinnipiac, are  among the preseason favorites. Entering her 15th season as coach, Lori Hussong likes the look of her young team that has seven freshman and six sophomores. Senior captains Dezarae Fillmyer, Stacey Dileo and Laura McCormick are looking to finish their college career with another regular season championship and are expected to help the freshmen get their first taste of college field hockey. The key player to watch is senior Dezarae Fillymer who started all of Rider’s games on back line in her junior year and was the leader of the team’s defense and her expectations have not changed. Even though the team is going through growing pains, Coach Hussong has the same expectations of her girls that she has for the past fourteen years.

The Siena Saints are coming off a season to forget where they only won a single game going 1-15. Even though there is not much expected from Coach Kara Zappone’s team who are picked to finish last, Coach Zappone, entering her third year wants her team to surpass these low expectations. Megan Bohse, a senior defender was ranked seventh with six saves in her 2013 season as a junior is expected to be a leader for the team that has struggled over the past few years. Siena is an older team consisting of only three incoming freshman, six sophomores, and nine upperclassmen. Even with the majority opinion, Siena could surprise this season and is a dark horse team to look out for because of its veteran presence.

30 minutes down the Merritt are Coach Katie Kloeckner’s Sacred Heart Pioneers. To open the season’s first two games, sophomore Danielle Gallagher was named MAAC Offensive Player of the Week after three goals, one of which being a game winner in the Pioneers opening weekend. After a disappointing 4-13 season and without a win during conference play (0-6) in 2013, the Pioneers look to reverse their luck in 2014 but from looking at expert predictions, expectations are not much higher in the new year with Sacred Heart projected to finish fifth in the MAAC preseason poll. Experience and veteran presence is not in their favor as there are eight freshman on the team and only two seniors.

The Bryant Bulldogs, who finished 11-7 last year, are coming off their second postseason in the past four years. The Bulldogs have confidence in another successful year with Shaunessy Saucier at the helm entering her sixth season as head coach. The player to watch for Bryant and the one who will be relied on the most will be the senior from New Zealand Rosie Bird who is trying to end her Bryant field hockey career on top.   Bird has 82 career points which is enough for fourth all-time in points at Bryant. Bryant has a balance of young players and veterans with seven freshman and six seniors.

Even with Quinnipiac being heavy favorites once again, the MAAC should be a very interesting conference with a lot of very competitive teams.