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Field Hockey ready for jump to ACC, jump in competition
By Justin Stephenson
Sitting outside of a McDonald’s parking lot at dusk, the setting sun casts a brilliant and symbolic shine upon Trager Stadium. It represents the conclusion of a storied legacy from U of L’s Big East success and with the rising of the moon shines a dimly lit path to continued success in the ACC.
After going 15-4 in the last season in the Big East, U of L field hockey knows that the ACC is a different beast.
“At first, there was a degree of fear,” said Coach Justine Sowry. “There was a fear factor, but we are trying to take it as an opportunity and a challenge, and we’re really excited to be able to compete at this level.”
Although the tidal wave of a tough season in a new conference might cause some to wipe out, these Cards should not be counted out. With the return of all of last season’s starters and a host of transfers and freshman the Cards just might hang ten in one of America’s most cutthroat sports conferences.
Back for the Cardinals in her most demanding role yet, junior Victoria Stratton, hopes to uphold her newly acquired status as team captain. Returning senior, Paige Monsen, led the team last season in assists with ten and was top five in points with 14. Rounding out the class is super-senior Alyssa Voelmle, who led the team in goals with 13, points with 27 and game winning goals last season with 3.
Joining these weathered feathers of the turf is a determined and talented freshman class.
“All of these freshman came here in great shape, I was very excited,” Sowry exclaimed. “They have added a level of depth and competition within our squad.”
Leading this savvy group of standouts is freshman Nicole Woods, whose election to Team USA’s under-19 squad during the summer cannot be understated.
“She’s really developed a lot over the last months and she’s had an outstanding preseason, so she’s going to contribute immediately for us,” Sowry said.
Joining Woods on the first year wagon is redshirt senior Rachel McCarthy, a transfer whose accomplished career as a three year starter for U Mass Lowell is undeniable. She led the team and was national runner-up with a total of 25 goals scored last season.
McCarthy was named to the Northeast 10 conference first team; she started on the 2012 national runner-up U Mass Lowell team and was a freshman on the 2010 Division II national champion U Mass Lowell squad.
“We’re so excited to have Rachel on our team, she was our sharpest forward during the preseason and I can’t wait for her to get on the pitch this year,” Sowry beamed.
Though coursing with anticipation and impatience at the upcoming season, the road ahead presents a long, arduous struggle.
“We have to get better in all areas, specifically our defending needs to get better; we have to make sure we have the highest work rate we’ve ever had. We can never be eliminated through poor technique or through getting tired,” Sowry explained.
In the statistical top half of the ACC’s teams, the worst team, Wake Forest, allowed only two goals a game and the best teams allowed 1.21 goals per game last season. U of L allowed 2.65 goals per game.
But the vaunted challenge is what U of L and the likes of Justine Sowry and her field hockey team live and compete for.
“I think we’re ready,” Sowry reflected. “We’ll just have to take it the old cliché, one game at a time.”
The first home game of the season is August 29th vs. St. Louis at 4:00 pm at Trager Stadium.