Field Hockey with Hot Start to Season

By Jonathan Swann ‘19

Sports Writer 

Davidson Field Hockey has big plans for this year’s A-10 Tournament. Photos by Genevieve Husak ‘22

With a program-high 12 home games, Davidson Field Hockey is looking to rack up the wins on their home turf this season. So far, their efforts look promising, notching wins against Towson and LIU-Brooklyn. The ‘Cats look to keep the momentum going as they enter a 3-game homestand versus Saint Joseph’s, William & Mary, and Longwood. Saint Joseph’s won the A-10 conference championship last year, and William & Mary finished last season ranked 17th nationally, meaning the Wildcats need to be on the top of their game to come out victorious.

In the season opener against Georgetown, the Wildcats lost a close game 0-1. Against Towson, the team had an excellent second half, dominating the time of possession by a wide margin and scoring 2 goals in the process. The game versus Rider was a tough loss, but the team bounced back against LIU-Brooklyn, outshooting the Blackbirds 20-8 and winning 5-2.

This past Friday, the Cats fell by a score of 3-2 to Appalachian State, with the game going to 2OT. Sydney McKenna ’21 scored the two goals in the loss. Finally, the team played their first road (technically was a neutral site) game of the season this past Sunday against UC Davis, losing 0-3.

 Led by the efforts of Leigha Nortier ’19 and Kristin Kisa ’19, the Wildcats have averaged 10.5 shots per game and have enjoyed 34 penalty corners overall. Nortier enjoys a stellar shot percentage of 30%, meaning a third of her shots are goals; in addition, almost 70% of her shots are on target. The offensive output is aided by sophomore Caitlyn Gund’s 3 assists, along with the efforts of Valeries Hajek ’21 and Kate Singletary ’19.

 Nortier emphasized that the whole team is supportive and feeds off success; “[we are] good at building off each other’s positive emotions as well as pushing our physical limits in hard practices, which prepares us for our competition.”

In goal, Sarah Zeszotarski ’20 leads the way, having started 5 of the 6 games the Wildcats have played. Zeszotarski is keeping the momentum going from last year where she was ranked nationally in save percentage with .726. This season, she sports a .762 save percentage and a 2.39 goal against average. Captain and senior Bean Rodriguez is also providing the Wildcats with a solid performance in goal.

Almost all defensive starters have graduated, but senior captain Courtney Byler provides a strong and experienced presence on the backline for the Wildcats. Byler, who has the Davidson single-season record for both assists and defensive saves, was named All-Conference last year and looks to match her sustained success as the season progresses. As a captain, she also feels that she has an added responsibility to “inspire her teammates to push themselves even when they feel like stopping.”  

Both Nortier and Byler are pleased with the effort the team has put in this season but highlights the need to keep working hard. Byler hopes the team can “continue our scoring momentum and start shutting teams out on our defensive end.” Nortier emphasizes that the team needs to “keep pushing our limits because we don’t yet understand how good we can be…sometimes we don’t play confidently or consistently.” 

Ginny Turner, now in her 13th season as Head Coach of Davidson Field Hockey, remains a steadying force on the sidelines. Named A-10 Coach of the Year in 2015, Turner guided the Wildcats to a berth in the A-10 conference semifinals before the ‘Cats fell to top seed Richmond. 

With only the top 4 teams in the regular season making the conference tournament, the ‘Cats must excel in every game. But now in their 5th year in the A-10 conference, the Wildcats have shown they can hold their own against the 8 other teams in the conference. 

Nortier says the expectation ever since last spring was to go to the A-10 tournament, and the team, especially the current seniors, are hoping to go back to the tournament. Byler adds that the team is not only looking to qualify for the tournament but win it and subsequently make the NCAA tournament.        

Looking ahead, after the homestand, the team enters conference play facing Saint Louis, which has a 2-3 record currently, and then UMass, who finished 13-8 last year and is 2-3 this season, before finishing the road trip against Yale. With the many home games this season, Davidson fans can view plenty of field hockey action well into October. Nortier says that the team appreciates it when the fans come out to support the team. Both she and Byler agree that the team is eager to prove to fans and foes alike that Davidson Field Hockey is hungry for success.

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