The 2014 Denison field hockey season will open on Friday (Aug. 29) and head coach P.J. Soteriades returns 10 upperclassmen along with a talented group of eight first-years who have been battling for playing time since the opening of training camp.
Denison field hockey has enjoyed its most successful three-year stretch in program history. Since 2011, the Big Red have posted a record of 50-10, good for a .833 winning percentage. Gone from last year's 17-2 squad are seven seniors, led by all-region performers Katie McMahon and Karla Dixon. In McMahon, Soteriades loses 55 goals and a program record 30 career assists, while Dixon proved to be one of the conference's top defensive players over the last three seasons.
It's a new day for Soteridaes and the Big Red and the veteran coach is excited for what the season could bring.
"There has been a lot of teaching going on in camp and I feel good about our defense," said Soteriades. I've also been very pleased at the play of some of our newcomers. They have come in prepared and some are challenging for starting roles."
Denison returns a trio of seniors in Molly Chapman, Alex Berman, and Sara Hofmann. A stalwart on the Big Red backline throughout her career, Chapman is coming off seasons that saw her score three goals and four assists thanks to her proficiency in penalty corner situations.
Berman was a first-team All-North Coast Athletic Conference pick in 2013 and Denison's lone returning All-Great Lakes Region performer. The Denison defense limited the opposition to 17 goals in 19 contests a year ago and Berman has plenty of experience at fullback. She has started 39 consecutive games dating back to the start of her sophomore season.
Hoffman is another senior with 43 games of experience under her belt. She started 18 of 19 games in the midfield last season.
Junior Allie Bacon is coming off an all-conference season in 2013 that saw her start all 19 games. She will be moved between the midfield and defense this season. Other juniors include Sadie Conley, Greta Finney, Elsie Humes, and Britta Marden.
Finney played in nine games last season and Humes saw action in all 19 games. Both will move between midfield and forward while on the field. Marden started seven games at forward a year ago. She finished with one goal and one assist off 15 shot attempts. Conley returns at fullback after appearing in 11 games as a sophomore.
In addition to the five juniors, two sophomores, Abby Martone and Mackenzie Ritter, are back. Martone played in 17 games last year, mostly at forward, and scored two goals while Ritter saw action in eight games on defense.
The first-year class consists of eight players who will have an opportunity to make an impact. One that will see action is rookie goalkeeper Audrey Miller-Foreman, who replaces graduated senior keeper Laura Campbell.
Thoughts about easing into the season should be cast aside as the Big Red open against No. 4 Christopher Newport and 15th ranked Catholic this weekend in Lexington, Va. Both contests will be played on the campus of Washington and Lee University.
DU will return home for a stretch of three home contests from Sept. 13-17. Due to the NCAC's double round robin schedule that only leaves room for four non-conference contests. Three of those four non-conference opponents are in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association pre-season rankings.