Field Hockey CAA Tournament Preview
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
After falling to Drexel, 1-0, in overtime Sunday, the Delaware field hockey will have to try to defend its Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship title away from the comforts of Rullo Stadium on hostile ground at Northeastern.
Though head coach Rolf van de Kerkhof said it does not matter where the tournament is played, the Lady Hens have an uphill battle ahead of them, losing their last two conference games.
Below is a preview of the teams that made it to the CAA Tournament, along with Van de Kerkhof’s take on each team.
No. 1 Northeastern: 14-4 overall (5-1 CAA)
The Huskies were the first team the Lady Hens beat at home during the CAA season, with a 3-2 victory on Oct. 24. Since that game, they have gone on to win (wait until Monday). Northeastern has a 7-1 record at home this season, with a 6-1 record away, so it is a strong contender no matter where the games are played.
The offense is strong, with forward Emma Lamison scoring eight goals and midfielder Natalie Stewart scoring six. The Huskies have 43 goals from 193 shots on goal, compared to their opponents’ 27 from 163.
In the crease, goalie Becky Garner has done a fantastic job, starting 17 games and having a 1.61 goals against average. She has made 72 saves this season, with five shutouts.
Rolf says: “The nice thing for them is that every team is trying to get better and they try to play their best hockey at this time of the year,” he said. “I think Northeastern was able to pull one out against James Madison with a win on Friday so it tells you that they remain patient and poised as well and they believe that they will take care of it one way or the other.”
No. 2 Delaware: 11-8 overall (4-2 CAA)
It has been a rough year for the Lady Hens, having lost their last two conference games to Hofstra and Drexel, as well as home field advantage for the tournament. Their play has been streaky, a couple wins here and there followed by hard losses that were close, and a few players and coach van de Kerkhof have said that, at times, the team is not playing as a whole.
As for scoring, however, the team has been powerful, with junior midfielder Michaela Patzner scoring 10 goals this season in addition to nine assists. Tying Patzner for most goals scored this year is sophomore midfielder/defender Esmée Peet. The Dutch native has five assists in addition to making it into the double-digits in goals scored.
Between the pipes, freshman goalie Emmeline Oltmans has had a decent beginning to her Delaware career, going 8-8 in her 16 starts with a 2.30 goals against average and 63 saves. Redshirt freshman goalie Fran Orella, who spent a year under outgoing lead goalie Sarah Scher, started in three games while Oltmans was injured, and played in three others to wind up with a 3-0 record. She has a 2.50 goals against average and 10 saves.
Rolf says: “We have to play as one,” he said. “I still believe we are the best team in the CAA, but we have to find a way to make the difference in the attacking goal cage, and if we are the best in the CAA, that’s the only thing left we are missing aside from becoming a little more consistent in our performance.”
No. 3 William & Mary: 7-11 overall (4-2 CAA)
Despite having a losing non-conference record, the Tribe was tied for best CAA record heading into Monday’s game against Northeastern. Delaware faced William & Mary in its second conference game of the season in Williamsburg on Oct. 5. That day, the Lady Hens handed the Tribe its only CAA loss this year, 5-3. As far as schedules are concerned, William & Mary is right up there with Delaware in not being able to beat ranked opponents regularly (the Tribe is 0-7, while the Lady Hens are 1-4).
Offensively, the Tribe is in the same zone as the Huskies, with single-digit scoring for its top players. Forward Pippin Saunders has nine goals, with midfielder Emma Clifton scoring six.
Defensively, it has been up to one goalie, Meredith Savage, to protect the space between the pipes for the entire year. In her just over 1,000 minutes of playing time, Savage has allowed 48 goals in 17 games for a 2.79 goals against average as well as having saved 69 shots.
Rolf says: “They are a very high energetic team, they are well-coached, they believe in themselves and they have grown over the last couple of games since we’ve played them,” he said. “So they’re probably the favorite as of now, in my opinion, to be the number one seed position-wise and compete for the CAA Championship.”
No. 4 James Madison: 11-7 overall (3-3 CAA)
The Dukes snuck into the last spot in the playoffs by beating Hofstra, 2-1, on the road. While Delaware beat the Dukes, 6-5, to open the CAA season, it took two overtimes to do so, with junior forward Jacki Coveleski netting the game-winning goal.
In terms of scoring, James Madison is in the Delaware range of double-digit scorers, with midfielder Loes Stijntjes putting 14 away this season. Fellow midfielder Taylor West has scored 10, good enough for second place in the team’s scoring table.
Between the pipes, Hannah George has had a strong year, going 8-6 for the season with a 2.00 goals against average and 31 goals against. She also has 65 saves.
Rolf says: “They have grown as well over the last couple of weeks, and what we have to do is we have a chance to play the team again, we have to play smarter with time remaining to not jeopardize the win at that time, so we just have to do a better job with clock management,” he said.