WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – After finishing 9-7 overall and 6-4 in NESCAC last fall the Williams field hockey season ended in the NESCAC Tournament quarterfinals with a loss at Trinity.
Head coach Alix Barrale, now in her 16th year at the helm of the Ephs, will lead her squad into the 2015 season, searching for that elusive NESCAC championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
The Ephs last won the NESCAC title in 2004 and last played in the NCAA Tournament nine years ago. The time for the Ephs may be now, however, as they return a solid group of veterans, including eight players who played in at least 15 games in 2014 and four more that made at least 10 appearances.
Senior tri-captains midfielder Emma Grauberger, forward Kara Sperry, and midfielder Annie VanWagenen ("Wags") will provide leadership. Both Grauberger and VanWagenen started 15 games a year ago, while Sperry's season consisted of eight games.
"I really enjoy working with Wags, Emma, and Kara," said Barrale. "Each has a unique style of leadership, which mirrors their respective style of play. Wags is laid back and always positive and she is poised under pressure in the offensive circle. She can shoot the lights out with her lethal shot."
"Emma is an intense and focused defender," added Barrale. "She demands a lot of herself and inspires those around her. Kara is tireless in her pursuit of excellence on and off the field and is a selfless leader who consistently puts others first. Put these three women together they are a force to be reckoned with."
|Annie VanWagenen '16/by Bob Ewell|
Four of last season's top five point leaders and goal scorers return for Barrale to mold her team's offensive attack, including VanWagenen (5g 2a=12 pts), junior midfielders Rachel Brissette (5g, 1a=11 pts) and Kit Rosen (3g, 1a=7 pts), and sophomore Alex Bennett (3g, 3a= 9 pts). Bennett saw time in both the midfield and at forward.
Barrale states that she will be counting on "Wags, Brigid Bruno, Alex Bennett to add to their accomplishments from last season on the offensive line. Wags has incredible strength and power behind the ball and tackles back really well on defense. Brigid has great touch on the ball and is excellent at finding the open space. Alex has incredible timing when possessing the ball. Her talents are hard to defend."
The Ephs return a core group of seasoned veterans to the midfield in
Kit Rosen, Rachel Brissette, and Hannah Goodrick. Barrale hopes this trio will control the midfield. "Their experience playing together last year leaves a strong base on which to build," Barrale stated. "Kate Pattison, Kat Fearey, Claire Swingle will also see a lot of playing time in the midfield. They're all versatile players whose athleticism makes them valuable anywhere on the field."
In addition to the returning weapons on offense, junior Margaret Draper, last year's starting goaltender will backstop the defense. In 2014, Draper posted solid numbers with a 1.94 goals against average and a .702 save percentage. A true goalie at heart, Draper has played both ice hockey and lacrosse goalie at Williams as well. First Year Emma Santucci will be a solid back up in the goal.
Last season the Ephs scored 29 goals, but allowed 31.
|Kit Rosen '17/by Bob Ewell|
The defensive unit this season will certainly be a focal point for the Ephs as they seek to replace graduated starters, Annie Rojas and Jaclyn Porfilio. Junior Allie Holle is the most experienced returnee on defense after senior tri-captain Emma Grauberger, having played in 13 games last season. The next most experienced defender is sophomore Sarah Ladouceur who played in five games and classmate Priya Sivalingam who made just two appearances due to injury. Junior Katie Gallop who was listed, as a midfielder last year will be called on to contribute on defense.
"Katie Gallop will continue to use her speed and quickness to stop our opponent's fast break and will contribute on offense corners," Barrale noted. "Sarah and Priya are two defenders that I think have a good shot of breaking into the starting line up...if they can stay healthy."
"In addition to Emma Santucci we have five more first years joining the team," said Barrale. "Meredith Wright, Libby Dolan, Caroline Taverna, Julia Cochran and Sarah McLaughlin make up the first year group. Time will tell how much playing time they will earn."
The Ephs' 2015 schedule features, as always, tough and five of the NESCAC teams are ranked in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association pre-season top twenty poll: Bowdoin, Middlebury, Amherst, Tufts and Trinity. Additionally, out of conference opponents Skidmore and Mount Holyoke (ranked in pre-season poll) should pose challenges for Williams.
"I believe this group of women has the mental and physical toughness needed to compete at the national level," Barrale stated. "We will, as always, relentlessly pursue the NESCAC Championship. We will do this by making the most out each and every practice. We will be grateful for every opportunity we have together to grow and build as a team. Most importantly, we will enjoy the process involved in our preparation for competition."
Barrale and the Ephs will open up the 2015 campaign on the road visiting the Keene State [NH] Owls on September 8 at 6:30 PM. The first home game will be the third game of the season on September 16 when they host Mount Holyoke on Williamson Field at 6:30 PM.