WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- Williams College head field hockey coach Alix Barrale begins her 20th year Williams with 10 players returning that started at least 16 games for the Ephs in 2018. Overall 18 players return for the second consecutive season.
A year ago the Ephs posted a record of 12-5 and were the only team to defeat eventual national champion Middlebury. Despite that victory, their record and a demanding schedule the Ephs were not invited to play in the NCAA Tournament. They did have two wins over Bowdoin, including a 3-2 defeat of the Polar Bears in the NESCAC quarterfinals before concluding their season with a 3-0 loss to eventual national runner-up Tufts in the conference semifinals.
Barrale and her staff will have to search for some goal scoring help as leading scorer Libby Dolan, an NFHCA All-American, graduated in June, and also some help in goal as one-half of Barrale's 1-2 punch in the net, Emma Santucci, also departed with a diploma. But there is plenty of experience to choose from and build upon for the veteran head coach, and also a first-year class of 14 at the start of the preseason that will no doubt contribute to the depth — and success — of the 2019 squad.
"Our depth is one of our greatest strengths this year," stated Barrale. "With 18 returning players we can kind of pick up where we left off last season. We look to build on that and create a healthy learning environment for our new players. Our team chemistry is off the charts," added Barrale. "Our players are extremely supportive of each other. They are really fun to be around. I love that they have a strong sense of humor and can be goofy at times yet they know when to "flip the switch" and focus intently on the task at hand. They do not shy away from hard work and rise up to every challenge we put before them."
Barrale has a senior class of seven, including five who played in 11 games or more last year: Emma Ticknor, Isabel Perry, Marissa Feller, Charlotte Cooper and goalkeeper Abby Lloyd. Feller was named an NFHCA All-Region selection as a defender for her play in 2018. Seniors Nina McGowan and Calla Khilnani round out the class. The junior class was equally impactful as four of its five members played 16 or more games in 2018; Molly Lohss, Allie Weiner, Claire Fitzpatrick and Simone Veale. Olivia Dulany will vie for time in goal with Lloyd.
"This year our senior class is sensational," Barrale said. "They are the perfect combination of tenacity and compassion. They set the bar high in practice but allow each member of the team to shine in her own way. They want to win and will stop at nothing to achieve it. I am in awe of their work ethic and their commitment to team seems effortless."
Barrale, who will carry her largest roster in her 20 years with 31, has 13 first years which made the squad and is convinced the group is as high on talent as it is deep in quantity. Included in the first-year class are Emily Batchelor, Bridget Bernardo, Mercedes Crestanello, Bridgett Hyde, Lauren McCarey, Kelly McCarthy, Addie Sidles, Carson Stephenson, Faith Stineman, Gates Tenerowicz, Abigail Todd, Catherine Torres, and Helen van de Broek. Do not be surprised if one or more of this group cracks the starting line-up for Barrale.
"Our first years are one of the most talented classes we have ever had," Barrale noted. "It is so refreshing to coach a group of women that have no idea how good they actually are. Most importantly, they are so fun to have on the team. I cannot wait to see the immediate impact they have."
The Ephs averaged scoring just about 2.5 goals a game in 2018 but lost their leading goal scorer in Dolan and their top scorer in terms of assists in Meredith Wright with 11. Ticknor led all returning players with seven goals, while Perry had 5 and then two players, Veale and Fitzpatrick, had three each. Fitzpatrick racked up six assists, while Ticknor and Perry had four each, so there is a core of returnees who could leading the scoring effort.
In the back, the Ephs have 6 of 7 of their critical defensive positions filled by returnees including Lloyd in goal; Feller, Weiner and Cooper in the back, and Perry and Welch at defensive midfield positions.
Barrale has high expectations for the group. The Ephs have a difficult schedule and play in the top conference in the country, but the veteran coach is confident in the group's ability to come together and be successful.
"We are always aiming to win the NESCAC championship," she said. "While that is true, we will work to stay focused on our day to day growth and enjoy our journey. At the end of every summer I know that I will be tasked to look ahead at the great things our team has to look forward to this season. For me, It is always bittersweet. I think every season does in some way, shape or form pay homage to the ones who were there before them. It is easiest to measure the success of a season on it win-loss record but in my 20 years I have come to learn that success comes in many forms."
Williams opens its season Saturday, September 4th with a 1 p.m. home game against Tufts.