Field Hockey Looks to Rebound After Slow Start

Wes Kerr-

The ‘Cats defend the net in a home game against UMass on September 17th. Photo by Erin Gross

Just two years removed from a thrilling run to the Atlantic 10 semifinals, success has not come so easily to the Davidson field hockey program in 2017. They have trudged through rough waters during the past two seasons and have still yet to capture their first victory after their opening eight games this year. Ginny Turner, the 2015 A-10 Field Hockey Coach of the Year in her twelfth season at the helms of the program, will have to address some major issues with her squad’s performance early.

The team has yet to score multiple goals in a game, averaging a measly 0.43 per outing, which has appeared to be their biggest weakness early in this year’s campaign. In their past four contests, they have put only one in the back of the net and were humiliated 10-0 at North Carolina while being shut out of the scoreboard so far in the Atlantic 10.

They kept things close at home last Friday night against La Salle before the Explorers scored a pair of goals very late, but the offensive attacks for Davidson were few and far between.

Says senior leader Hannah Fisher, “we need to give that extra 50%. Fitness is a huge thing for us, and we really need to be able to step in front of that other team and get those 50-50 balls. Other teams have had the opportunities to score on us, and we have the ability to do so right back. We just need to act on it.”

Even with early struggles, Fisher has impressed for the Wildcats. She has taken the most shots out of anyone on the team with thirteen, and scored in the season opener against Georgetown. Her most memorable moment in her field hockey career may have been her hat trick against Colgate last October, scoring three against the Raiders. Even during her senior season, she continues making adjustments to her game. “I got moved to a new position this year, and having the adaptability to move around is important.” She admits that field hockey is much more challenging than many of us would think. “ Having good stick skills is a big challenge for us. Being able to change with the speed of the ball is tough as well, because the balls will fly on the water-based turf we play on. Having the endurance to do this for 70 minutes is to me the hardest thing about our sport.”

On defense, junior Courtney Byler has been quite a fixture in Ginny Turner’s lineups. She has started every single game since the beginning of sophomore year and has etched her name in the record books, holding the school’s single season record with 11 assists in ‘16. “ A big component of my record last year was my teammates being able to score off my passes. This year, we have a different team dynamic; we’re still adjusting to our new structure and are excited to continue connecting with the new players.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Byler led the conference in both defensive saves and assists. So far this year, she has half of the entire team’s defensive saves. Byler stresses how much offseason training has impacted her play.

“The month long conditioning period without sticks really prepares us for the season. Running on a daily basis this past summer really helps because coming into season conditioned helps your endurance and execution to make big plays in games. I wanted to be in my best shape possible so I could help the team.”

In terms of adjustments, Byler noted, “as a team we really need to improve on cutting to the ball on offense.” “I’ve thought I have helped the defense well so far but I want to get more attack movement flowing through our team and facilitate more offense.”

Both Hannah Fisher and Byler were underclassmen that both contributed to the ‘Cats’ impressive run to the conference semifinals just two years ago.

Byler believed that “the senior leadership was really the difference. On day one the captains established that we WILL be going to the conference tournament this year. There’s no other way around it. Every day, we worked to achieve that one goal and there were no doubts in our minds that we would make it there.”

Now, after losses in their first two conference games of the new season, the margin for error grows slimmer by the day. Scoring less than a goal per game while allowing opponents to get four a game will certainly not get it done. However, there is hope, as these last few home games remained close until very late, including the La Salle defeat and a 2-1 loss to Ohio.

Evidently, the ‘Cats are just a few steps away from grabbing big wins. Fisher tells us that “we had a slow start that year as well, but once you get that game where you feel you were in a close contest with a good team, it gives you the ability and motivation to keep pushing yourself every day.” Maybe, just like in 2015, those close losses will give way to exciting victories.

The ‘Cats next take on A-10 opponents Lock Haven on Friday and Saint Francis this upcoming Sunday. Their next home game is not until October 6th against Richmond. The team will take on three more nationally ranked teams before the end of the season.