WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — The collective group that is the Williams College field hockey team took some big steps last season, winning as many as 10 games for the first time since 2006, and finishing 6-4 in the toughest conference in the country for the second straight year.
Head coach Alix Barrale, back for her 17th season at the helm of the Ephs, believes there are higher accomplishments this group can achieve.
"We are returning 18 players, eight of whom have started in the past," she said. "The team chemistry is excellent and their work ethic is even better. They have set a high standard at practice and are eager to show the gains we have made on the field since last season."
Barrale's roster of 26 is evenly composed of six seniors, six juniors, six sophomores and eight first years. The six seniors are led by captains Kit Rosen, Katie Gallop and Rachel Brissette and also include Margaret Draper, Allie Holle and Brigid Bruno.
The juniors are led by NFHCA All-New England midfielder Alex Bennett and also include Katie Pattison, Priya Sivalingam, Hannah Goodrick, Maggie Shilling and Julianna Kostas. The sophomores are Julia Cochran, Caroline Taverna, Sarah McLaughlin, Libby Dolan, Meredith Wright and Emma Santucci.
"Our strength will be our experience (18 veterans) and our depth," Barrale noted. "We will have MANY talented players not in the starting line-up but who know that they will come off the bench and make big contributions. Thus far this team has done a nice job of checking their respective ego(s) at the door."
Rosen (four assists) will lead the Ephs' charge at midfield along with Goodrick, the Ephs top scorer a year ago with six goals and three assists for 15 points, and Wright (two goals, one assist).
Bennett and Brissette are back to mann the forward line for Williams. Both had four goals and one assist during the 2015 campaign. They will be supported by the talented trio of Bruno, Dolan and Shilling.
Holle and Gallop bring experience and talent to anchor the defense. Taverna and Sivalingam will replace graduated seniors in the back, including All-Region back Emma Grauberger McLaughlin is also expected to see a lot of time back in the defensive unit.
"Kit Rosen will lead the charge at midfield with her unwavering determination and fierce competitiveness," Barrale said. "She does an outstanding job of setting the tempo of the game and keeping her teammates calm in high pressure situations. Meredith Wright and Hannah Goodrick will be strong in the midfield.
"Our veterans in the back are going to be key to our success. Katie Gallop with her incredible speed and competitive spirit and Allie Holle with her incredible poise and fearlessness. Margaret Draper is looking good in the goal.
"Up front, Rachel has some of the best dodges in the NESCAC. Bennett is so skilled and is a playmaker all over the field. Bruno, Dolan, and Shilling will be essential on the forward line with their ability to get a touch in front in the goal."
Barrale also has eight first years capable of contributing to this year's squad, including Nina McGowan, Charlotte Cooper, Isabel Perry, Kami Cisneros, Marissa Feller, Calla Khilnani, Emma Ticknor and Abby Lloyd.
"The first years are impressive," Barrale said. "They have jumped in feet first and have never looked back. Each is very coachable and shares a desire to improve and be the supportive teammates. Feller, Ticknor, Cooper will be exciting to watch in the midfield. Cisneros will be playing defense. Perry and McGowan will be on the forward line. Abby Lloyd is a strong keeper."
Barrale has an optimistic outlook at playing in the best conference in the country and what facing such a difficult schedule will bring out of her 2016 group.
"We are well aware that playing in the NESCAC there is no margin for error and that every effort and every decision we make can impact the outcome of a game," she said. "We will take no opponent lightly and will embrace the pressures of competition. I have full confidence this group of woman will go far."