With seven-straight appearances in the ODAC semifinal round and
an 82-65 record at W&L, Head Field Hockey Coach Wendy Orrison
is thinking bigger in 2009. The Generals, picked third in the ODAC
preseason poll (including one first-place vote), appear to have
both the players in place and the drive to do just that.
“We want to win the league,” Orrison said. “My five seniors were not here for our first championship (2005) and they have all stated that is something that they really want. They are embracing this season and have set a great tone.”
Orrison’s senior class of forward Sallie Armstrong (Houston, Texas/St. John’s), forward Alex Caritis (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shady Side Academy), defender Grace McGee (Virginia Beach, Va./Floyd E. McKellam), forward Steph Mansey (Mendham, N.J./Randolph) and goalkeeper Caroline Habliston (Alexandria, Va./ St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes) constitute a solid core of players for W&L’s younger players to follow .
“They offer great leadership on and off the field,” Orrison noted. “With nine first-years on the team, it is vital to have a great core of leaders to set an example and we have that.”
Armstrong is the most accomplished player of the senior class. A three-time First Team All-ODAC selection and an all-region honoree in 2008, she needs just four goals to break W&L’s all-time record of 42 and she needs just 14 points to break the school record of 106, both held by Jane Beall ’05. Prophetically, the year that Beall set the goals scored record was also the year that W&L captured its only ODAC title.
“Sallie is great. Obviously she knows about the records, but that is not what drives her,” said Orrison. “She is totally focused on what we are doing as a team. Her individual accomplishments will come, but the team’s performance is more important to her.”
Caritis is making the move to forward this season and will join her classmates Armstrong and Mansey up top in 2009. Mansey burst onto the scene with five goals as a first-year, but has scored just three the last two seasons, while Caritis has been a solid contributor in the midfield the last several seasons.
“Steph has steadily gotten better,” Orrison said. “She has really worked to become a more complete player and I think that this year is going to be a culmination of her work.”
Of Caritis, Orrison noted, “she has a really wicked shot. We are going to move her to attack this year. She will bring her defensive prowess and knowledge to the attacking line, which will be an added benefit.”
Also in the senior class is McGee, a Second Team All-ODAC selection in 2008, who led the team with seven defensive saves a year ago.
“Grace has great leadership skills,” Orrison noted. “She is great under pressure, she has great vision and communicates well. She is very excited for this year.”
The final member of the senior class is Habliston, who is penciled in as the starting goalkeeper after starting 18-of-19 games a year ago. Habliston made 98 saves on her way to a goals-against average of 1.89 and a save percentage of .731.
“Caroline is settled in now,” observed Orrison. “She is always looking to get better and with a full year as the starting keeper under her belt, she is a little more comfortable and she will be stronger this year. Caroline has some competition in practice with the addition of two first-years and she will be even more physically and mentally sharp in practice and games because of that competition on a daily basis.”
With the return of three solid senior forwards, an all-conference defender and a starting goalie, Orrison likes the nucleus of her team in 2009.
“We have experience coming back at all the positions. It is just a really solid core of players,” she added.
Non-seniors among that solid core include junior midfielder Emmy Mathews (Baltimore, Md./Bryn Mawr), junior defenders Jennie Norcini (Wayne Pa./Episcopal) and Kelly Tran (Simsbury, Conn./Ethel Walker) and sophomores Christina Benedetti (Derwood, Md./Holy Cross) and Lindsey Edmonds (St. Louis, Mo./Villa Duchesne).
Mathews, who is also a standout lacrosse player for the Generals, was a First Team All-ODAC selection last season after tallying a pair of goals and a team-high eight assists, while also adding two defensive saves.
“Emmy is a great center-mid for us,” said Orrison. “Her ability to see passing lanes, as well as her ability to communicate, as well as her lacrosse skills, make her an ideal player for the center-mid position.”
Norcini, who figures to start as a defender for W&L, was second on the team last season with five defensive saves and will play a vital role for the Generals’ back line.
“Jennie had a good year last year and I would expect her to contribute in much the same way this year,” said Orrison.
Benedetti, who was fourth on the team in scoring last season with 10 points (4 G, 2 A) and Edmonds, who played in 14 games a year ago, will both look to build on solid debut campaigns.
“Benny (Benedetti) had a good first year,” Orrison noted. “She is a solid player and should improve in year two.”
Of Edmonds, Orrison said “she trained hard this summer and has looked great in practice so far.”
Other players that Orrison expects to contribute this year are sophomore defender Susie Giampalmo (Glennwood, Md./Glenelg), as well as first-years Lindsay Crittendon (Richmond, Va./St. Catherine’s), Ashley Barnes (Annapolis, Md./St. Mary’s) and Katharine Price (Concord, Mass./Concord-Carlisle).
Giampalmo, who was a walk-on last season and played in five games has “dedicated herself to the game and had a solid offseason,” according to Orrison.
Crittendon, a defender, has picked things up quickly and has good vision, while Barnes is expected to see some minutes as both a forward and a midfielder.
“Ashley just needs to get used the pace of the field,” Orrison said. “She is not used to playing on turf and her passes are just a little fast.”
Price has been a pleasant surprise for Orrison and her staff. A W&L Johnson Scholar who decided to come out for field hockey, she has picked things up very quickly and is a intelligent player that could work her way into some minutes.
“I have the core of my team back this year,” stated Orrison. “They are motivated, they really want to make it to NCAA’s and I think that they have the ability to do so.”
W&L kicks off the 2009 field hockey season on Sept. 11 against No. 11 Johns Hopkins at the W&L Turf Field. Game time is set for 6:30 pm.