2010 W&L Field Hockey Season Preview


The Washington and Lee field hockey team has made eight-straight appearances in the semifinal round of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Tournament. Aside from a league championship in 2005, W&L's only title, the Generals have often found themselves behind perennial national powers Lynchburg and Eastern Mennonite. However, a glance at the 2010 ODAC Preseason Poll suggests that W&L's time may be coming.

The Generals were tabbed second in the preseason vote by the league coaches, sandwiched between Lynchburg and EMU.
"We were definitely excited about being picked to finish second in the league," said Head Field Hockey Coach Wendy Orrison. "I think that the fact that we received a pair of first-place votes and were picked second shows that the league sees us a being a good team."
It's not just the league that thinks the Generals may be poised for a breakout season as Orrison is also excited about the 2010 version of the Generals.
"We have a pretty young team (24 players/9 upperclassmen), but there is a lot of game experience returning and the leadership of our upperclassmen has been really good," stated Orrison.
Orrison believes that team defense is one of her team's strengths and the defensive unit is also one of her most experienced groups.
"When I say 'Team D', its not about just one player or another, it's really about the unit as a whole," Orrison noted. "We really got back to re-teaching things like how to get into passing lanes, force double teams and our defense has become more sophisticated than it used to be. I think that in the second year of implementing this more deliberate defense we will see another year of solid and improved team defense."
Headlining the returnees on the on the defensive unit include senior captains Kate Donnelly and Emmy Mathews, senior Jennie Norcini, and juniors Lindsey Edmonds and Lizz Dye.
Donnelly and Mathews each started every game as season ago and helped to anchor a defense that yielded a league-low 29 goals (1.71/game) and posted six-straight shutouts. Mathews, a midfielder that contributes on both ends of the field, was a Second Team All-ODAC selection last season and, in addition to her defensive work, added three assists. Donnelly added one goal and a defensive save last year.
Norcini is a two-year starter whose experience will be valuable to coach Orrison's defensive unit. Norcini led the Generals with six defensive saves a season ago, including four in a 3-1 loss to Eastern Mennonite in the ODAC semifinals.
Edmonds and Dye played in 17 and 14 games, respectively, a season ago. The duo combined to record one goal and one assist, and their roles will look to increase in 2010. Junior Christina Benedetti will also contribute to the defense out of her midfield position.
Playing behind W&L's experienced defensive unit will be a pair of relatively untested goalkeepers. Sophomores Kirsten Kyne and Caroline Sutherland will take the reins in the cage, with Kyne appearing to have the edge as the season starts.
"I feel very lucky to have two goalkeepers," Orrison said. "You never want to have just one keeper and I have a great deal of confidence in both of them."
Kyne saw action in eight games (251:32) as a first-year. She posted a .789 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.23 as she made 30 saves against eight goals allowed. Sutherland appeared in one game (8:12) and did not face a shot.
"I have seen vast improvement in Sutherland," noted Orrison. "I also think that being fortunate enough to have a goalkeeper coach with international experience {Gwen Alexander} has been invaluable and she {Alexander} has done a great job working with both of them."
While experienced, Orrison's attacking unit is perhaps her most untested group.
"There is a lot of game experience in that group, just not at the 'attack' position," she points out. "Losing Sallie is big obviously, but we had 14 players score at least one goal last season and I would expect our scoring to be a little more spread out this year as we have girls playing different positions."
The Sallie that Orrison mentioned is the since-graduated Sallie Armstrong '10. Armstrong accounted for 17 goals and three assists last season and graduated as the school's all-time leading scorer (130) and goal-scorer (56).
Senior Kelly Tran moves to the front line in 2010 after playing most of her previous three seasons as a defender. Looking to join her will be juniors Annie Stevenson and Benedetti, along with sophomores Katharine Price and Chelsea Stevenson.
Tran moved to a forward position for the final four games of 2009 and will look to build on that game experience.
"Kelly has really good ball-handling skills and I think her defensive ability will really help with her offense," said Orrison.
Price is the Generals' leading returning goal-scorer, having tallied five markers in her debut season. Chelsea Stevenson tallied one goal and two assists last season, Benedetti notched two goals and a team-high eight assists, while Annie Stevenson scored one goal and handed out one assist.
What Orrison's attack group may lack in 'attack experience' they more than make up for in versatility, according to Orrison.
"We have some forwards that used to be defenders and midfielders and I think that that will serve us well," she noted. "Our forward group is going to be a little more well-rounded than in the past and I am confident in the ability of the returners."
Also adding to Orrison's confidence in her forward group is the arrival of new assistant coach Jane Beall. Beall, a 2006 graduate of W&L, was the previous owner of the records broken by Armstrong last season.
"Jane is really going to be able to get a lot out of the returning group and help with the development of the younger players as well," asserted Orrison.
With at least one other team in the league feeling that Washington and Lee has positioned itself to contend for a conference crown, excitement abounds in Lexington and coach Orrison is eager for the season to begin. W&L opens its season under the lights when it hosts Catholic on Friday at 7:00 pm on the W&L Turf Field.