2011 Season Outlook: Scots Strength Shifts to Defense After Graduation Losses
|Nikki Sever is coming off a solid freshman season, having scored seven goals and assisted on six others.|
When a program loses five all-conference players to graduation, most will endure a significant rebuilding season, but for The College of Wooster field hockey team, it expects to be right in the thick of the 2011 North Coast Athletic Conference championship hunt and to position itself for a fourth-straight berth into the NCAA Div. III Championships field.
"Obviously, they were very important. All of them were starters. Two were among the top-five scorers in the College's history. It's hard to top a group like that. They were exceptional," said 21st-year head coach Brenda Meese of last year's senior class, consisting of Amanda Artman, Eileen Barrer, Nina Dine, Stephanie Standera, and Kate Valora.
"It will be an interesting year because it's not quite a rebuilding year in some ways," Meese added. "Yes, we did lose (a lot), but I feel good about our defense returning, we have to rebuild that midfield, and although we're missing two outstanding scorers, we're not quite starting over up front."
While the new-look forward and midfield lines develop, Wooster's backfield should carry the load early on. Meese is deciding whether to run a three- or four-back set, but either way, returning starters Dana Feit, Lauren Grimanis, and Josie Rey will be a big part of it. Rey, a sophomore, is already one of the best defensive players in the conference, coming off NCAC Tournament MVP honors and second-team all-NCAC status. Grimanis has started 36 career games entering her senior campaign and Feit, a junior, also has been in the starting lineup each of the last two seasons (35 starts in all).
Another veteran back who will be in the mix is senior Emily Johnson, who has exhibited steady improvement throughout her career, while a number of freshmen, such as Colleen Compliment, Virginia Iungerich, and Shelby Stone, also are expected to be viable options.
At the final line of defense, the Fighting Scots have a unique situation with two returning starters. Senior 'keeper Madalyn Myers started as a rookie and sophomore, posting all-conference honors each year with a combined .788 save percentage, but she missed all but a few minutes last fall due to injury. That allowed junior Liz Plumley to shine as she started all 22 games, recording a .730 save percentage as well as a 1.43 goals against average. Now, they're in a competition for the position, along with improving sophomore Meredith Farley.
With that amount of experience on the defense, the Scots should be able to overcome the loss of offensive standouts Artman, a four-time All-American and the No. 4 all-time scorer in NCAA Div. III history with 257 points, and Barrer, who totaled 126 points herself. Plus, they do have five players up front who possess starting experience – senior Maddie Hart, juniors Laura German, Amanda Graeser, and Clare Nelson-Johnson, and sophomore Nikki Sever.
Nelson-Johnson, who has played a variety of positions but may settle in at one of the wings this fall, and Sever, who gained a starting forward spot as a freshman a season ago, are the squads' top returning scorers after each tallied 20 points. Nelson-Johnson's scoring all came on goals (10), while Sever's was the result of seven goals and six assists. Graeser and Hart both suffered injury-shortened years, while German contributed eight goals.
Another forward who has seen regular action is junior Isabelle Howes, and sophomores Anna Regan and Edie Anderson will likely see increased action as well. Claire Moffett, Kim Palagyi, Taylor Thorp, and Emily Vermilyea are four first-years to track at the position.
Remaking the midfield line, where Standera and Valora started all four seasons and combined for six all-NCAC certificates, could be even more of a key to Wooster's success. Junior Anna Divis's continued development will be integral there, as she went from a reserve role to an all-conference award winner (honorable mention).
The 2011 version of the Scots' field hockey team may be involved in lower scoring games (they scored four or more goals in 10 of 22 games last year, but also allowed three or more six times), but Meese thinks that will suit this group just fine.
"We're used to being able to score a lot of goals," she said. "Now, we have to be more efficient when the opportunity presents itself. We have to be able to finish. We're probably going to be involved in a lot of 1-0, 2-0 games."
No matter what the scoreboard reads, the goals of this long-time winning program don't change.
"The first goal is always to make that conference tournament (top-four in regular season). We've been one of two teams to do that since the current format was adopted," summed up Meese. "Once there, we hope to be peaking and go after that automatic berth to the NCAA's."