Aug. 23, 2012
EASTON, Pa.- The Lafayette field hockey team will begin its season fit and prepared, as it tries to defend their Patriot League Championship from a year ago.
Head coach Andrew Griffiths returns for his sixth season, coming off a 2011 campaign where the team finished 11-9 and 4-1 in the Patriot League, taking the title over Bucknell in the Patriot League tournament.
Coach Griffiths has identified increasing fitness as a main goal for this year's Leopard squad.
"A real positive thing for us in camp was our fitness testing," Griffiths said. "Of our returning players, 12 recorded personal bests in our running test."
Below is a position-by-position breakdown of the Leopards, who were picked second in the Patriot League Preseason Poll.
Strong competition exists in goal for the Leopards as sopohomore Jessica Deutsch and senior Mara Kish will compete all season for starts and minutes.
Deutsch played in 13 games, making 10 starts in 2011 tallying a 6-6 record with two shutouts and a 1.73 goals against average.
Kish also played in 13 games with 10 starts compiling a 5-3 record. She notched two shutouts and recorded a 1.74 goals against average.
Sophomore Brittany Blass keys a defensive unit that Griffiths says needs to play "tighter and stronger overall" if they are going to be successful. Blass was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year, a First Team All-Patriot League selection, and one of four Leopards on the Patriot League All-Tournament Team in 2011.
Senior Jaclyn White started 18 games and earned Second Team All-Patriot League honors, while sophomore Jenna Seybert started all 20 in the back for the Leopards. Junior Kelsey Gula started every game as a freshman in 2010, and has played in 35 games in her first two years at Lafayette providing game experience and depth in the position.
Apart from them, new players will round out the back rotation as junior Dana Thomas and freshmen Hannah Millen and Sally Trout will battle for playing time.
The midfield is led by senior co-captain Emily Valeo, who was named to the First-Team All-Patriot League Team as well as the Patriot League All-Tournament Team last season. Valeo and others will work to replace Carolyn Cabrey, the 2011 Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player.
"I think it's a team effort," Griffiths said about replacing Cabrey. "We have a number of players that can step in. I think we're stronger and deeper as a whole unit than a year ago."
Senior Maria Machalick will be a key member of the Lafayette midfield again this season after scoring three goals and adding six assists in 20 starts last season. Rounding out the midfield will be junior Aimee Smith and freshmen Paige Macrae, Kirby Szalkowski and Abbey Stefanides.
Smith, Macrae, and Szalkowki will be also see time in the attacking third for the Leopards.
Reining Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year Deanna DiCroce leads a Leopard attack that led the Patriot League in goals, assists, and shots last season.
"Deanna's leadership has been important," Griffiths said. "She has good experience from the elite teams that she's trained with and she's brought that to our other players, helping to be a coach and leader on the field."
Dicroce, a senior co-captain , was an All-Patriot League First Team and Patriot League All-Tournament Team choice. She led the Patriot League in goals and assists with 14 and 10 respectively.
Calling this his area with the most depth, Griffiths will rely on juniors Kristin Heaney and Aimee Smith, and sophomore Kelsey Mead to formulate the attack with DiCroce.
Smith and Mead tied for second on the team in goals with eight, playing in all 20 games and making four and 16 starts respectively. Heaney made 12 starts and played in 20 games, netting four goals including the Patriot League Championship game winner.
Juniors Hannah Sotiropolous and Haley Keenan will also be called upon to play key minutes, while sophomore Brianna Barry, and freshmen Paige Macrae, Kirby Szalkowski, and Katie Birle will provide depth to the unit.