August 31, 2011

2011 Washington and Lee Field Hockey Season Preview

The name of the game is scoring goals and for the second season in a row, the Washington and Lee field hockey team has some questions as to who is going to provide the offense. Last season, the Generals had to replace the program's all-time leading scorer in Sallie Armstrong. Then, Kelly Tran came seemingly out of nowhere in 2010 and put together a 14-goal, 7-assist season to total 35 points.

This season, the Generals must replace not only Tran, but also four of the Top 5 scorers from a season ago and Head Coach Wendy Orrison is looking for another Tran-like candidate to step into the scoring void.
 
"I am not concerned about who is going to be scoring goals for us," said the 11th-year head coach. "I think I said the same thing last year when we lost Sallie. There is no pressure on just one person to score goals and now a variety of different players have the opportunity to step up and do it."
 
One candidate for the role is junior forward Chelsea Stevenson, the team's leading returning scorer from a year ago with 15 points on six goals and three assists.
 
"Chelsea could be the one to up and increase her scoring," said Orrison.
 
Also looking to add some punch to the W&L offense will be senior Emily Kunkel, junior Katelyn Daugherty and sophomores Lauren Boone, Alex Hensleigh, Iziar Moure and Taylor Zusi among others.
 
The quintet played in a combined 54 contests a season ago and, despite tallying just three goals and two assists between them, have the ability to put the ball in the back of the cage.
 
"Taylor is playing with a lot more confidence this season and is capable of scoring goals," Orrison noted. "Daugherty is playing well thus far and Izzy (Iziar Moure) and Alex (sophomore Alex Hensleigh) now have the opportunity to contribute much more than they did last year."
 
Orrison also mentioned first-years Lindsey Purpura and Candice Stefanic as several newcomers, who could aid the offense, especially in penalty corner situations, noting Purpura "has a good game sense and a quick stick."
 
If the offensive end of the field is a series of question marks, albeit questions that do not seem to faze Orrison, the midfield and defensive units provide much clearer answers and remain a strength of Orrison's team.
 
Senior captains Lizz Dye and Lindsey Edmonds return to their defensive posts, while a third captain, senior Christina Benedetti, returns to the offensive midfield as a solid two-way player.
 
Edmonds, primarily a defensive-minded midfielder, started all 17 games a year ago, tallying one goal and helping the Generals to a 2.72 goals-against average. Dye played in 16 contests with 15 starts and tied for the team lead with two defensive saves, and Benedetti tallied nine points on a pair of goals and five assists. For her career, Benedetti is ranked fifth all-time at W&L with 15 assists.
 
When speaking of her seniors, Orrison pointed out the different levels of game experience of the trio and how that aids their ability to lead.
 
"Having varying degrees of experience, I think, makes for a better group of captains," Orrison contended. "It can allow them to be more empathetic to those on the bench and more able to lead and relate to someone other than just the starters."
 
Over their first three seasons, Benedetti has seen the most action, playing in 52 games (43 starts), while Edmonds has started 32-of-48 games played and Dye has appeared 36 times with 16 starts.
 
"I think it's really neat how excited all three of them were to be captains," Orrison added. "It gives them a chance to put to use some leadership skills learned on campus and they don't view it as a chore or something that was expected. It is something they are glad to be doing."
 
Adding depth to the defensive unit is sophomore Riley Hampsch, who was an Honorable Mention All-ODAC selection as a rookie. She played in all 17 games (16 starts) and was in the starting lineup on 16 occasions. Her two defensive saves were also tied for the team lead.
 
First-year Caroline Andress was also a newcomer that Orrison mentioned as someone who could see some time in the back.
 
The goalkeeping situation for the W&L is in good hands in that there is a duo of experienced keepers, but neither one has separated herself from the other, creating a difficult situation for Orrison.
 
Juniors Kirsten Kyne and Caroline Sutherland are battling for the top spot for the second season in a row. Last year Kyne won the job following the preseason, but suffered a shoulder injury early in the season and was forced to the bench, allowing Sutherland to get on the field. Sutherland performed admirably throughout the year, posting a 2.65 GAA, a .673 save percentage (35 GA, 72 SV) and a pair of shutouts. As the season-opener looms, the battle has been tight between the two.
 
"They are pretty even right now," said Orrison. "Suds (Sutherland) probably has a little bit better footwork right now, having not taken a year off, but Kirsten is a little bit better communicator in the back. I see them splitting time early on and then we will go with the hot hand and see who is playing better."
 
As the Generals prepare to open the season, Orrison also spoke of the new playing surface at the W&L Turf Field and the change in the preseason schedule from years past.
 
"We are really excited about playing on the new turf, it's definitely an upgrade from the old surface," Orrison quipped. "Also, the new preseason schedule, being able to come in early and start playing a week earlier has given us a leg up. Being able to focus on just field hockey and not have to worry about academics yet is a definite benefit, especially for the first-years."
 
The Generals, who will look to make it out of the semifinal round of the ODAC Tournament for the first time since 2005, the last time W&L hoisted the ODAC Championship, open their season on Thursday at Stevenson at 4:30 pm.
 
 
--GENERALS--