While its season has certainly not been defined by overwhelming consistency, as evidenced by its 8-8 record, women’s field hockey has won when it matters most. With a 5-2 record in Atlantic 10 play and just one remaining conference match against UMass, the Wildcats are second overall in the conference, trailing only Richmond. Given that the ‘Cats beat Richmond, 1-0, in thrilling fashion on October 16, the team has a good shot to challenge the Spiders for the conference title. The ‘Cats are eager for the postseason tournament, hoping their season can culminate in the team’s first Atlantic 10 crown.
Earning this opportunity has required countless hours of training and practice that began this off-season for the team. Improving their conditioning in the stifling heat of August played a part in the ‘Cats’ pair of overtime victories, in which the team fought to the final whistle. The team has been driven by the belief that it can not just merely compete at a high level, but thrive in the ultra-competitive Atlantic 10.
Anne Federico ’17 noted that the biggest difference for the team has been the players’ change in mindset, rather than any huge variability within their in-game approach. “Last year we would go into games just trying to not lose by a lot, whereas this year we always go into games with the belief that we can win,” Federico said.
The team is not much different than last year’s squad, having lost just one starter. However, its altered mindset has allowed it to more than double its win total from last year, a tumultuous season in which the team earned just three victories.
As Federico emphasized, the team has undoubtedly experienced a “remarkable turnaround.” For example, last year the ‘Cats lost to the University of Vermont in overtime. This year, they won with a relentless flurry of goals and dominance on both ends, earning an astonishing 8-1 victory. The ‘Cats’ similar dominance in wins over conference opponents, such as a 3-0 victory over VCU or a 4-0 win over St. Louis, exemplifies the materialization of their winning mindset into concrete success. When also recognizing that four of their eight losses have been by just a one-goal margin, their record does not necessarily reflect how good this team can be when firing on all cylinders.
Seasoned veterans Anna Davis ’16 and Melissa Funsten ’16 have led the team offensively with six goals apiece for the year, while Davis’s four assists are also a team-high. Overall, the team has shown a very balanced attack, with seven different players contributing two or more goals to the team total. On the other side, the Cats’ losses have occurred largely because they failed to capitalize on their opportunities and the offense was periodically inconsistent. Such an issue was the case in their most recent match, a 2-1 loss to Saint Joseph’s. After a goal by Hannah Fisher ’18 midway through the first half, the offense’s attack stalled the rest of the way.
Defensively, the Wildcats have shown an ability to keep themselves in games through persistent and stifling defense. Given the margin for error, mere minor defensive lapses could have led to tantalizing defeats. In their tightly contested match against Richmond, both teams were held scoreless for the first 71 minutes. The defense held strong until Federico sent the ‘Cats into a celebratory frenzy by re-directing Funsten’s shot past Richmond goalkeeper Emily Braunewell for the crucial victory. Such a goal has proven even more momentous given the Cats’ recent clinching of a spot in the A-10 tournament, a goal that the Cats’ have held since pre-season.
Federico noted that while it was third from last in the A-10 just a year ago, the team set up the expectation early on that it could qualify for the tournament. While noting that “it was nice to achieve some tangible success based on the goals we set early this season,” Federico no doubt is hoping the ‘Cats can further capitalize on the opportunity by continuing this success into the postseason. With just four-teams competing for the title in a “do or die” scenario, anything can happen.
The Wildcats conclude the regular season on Saturday at home against Massachussetts at 12 p.m.