The Ephs will take to the ice this year in an unfamiliar role, but one they hope to get comfortable in, opening the season as the defending NESCAC champions.
In her three years at the helm of the Ephs, head coach Meghan Gillis has taken a Williams team that posted four wins the season before she arrived to 15 wins, a first ever NESCAC title, and a 2014 NCAA Tournament berth.
The Ephs ended up hosting the NESCAC tournament when top seeded Middlebury and second seeded Amherst were upset in the first round. The Ephs made the most of their first opportunity to host the NESCAC semifinals and finals, posting a 2-0 win over Connecticut College in the semifinal tilt and capturing the crown by defeating Bowdoin 4-1.
The Ephs' 2013-14 season ended in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament when they lost to eventual national champion Plattsburgh State 4-1.
With the NESCAC title came many honors including a program first – two First Team All-Americans in the same season in senior forward Cristina Bravi and freshman defenseman Hanna Beattie. This duo also earned NESCAC honors as well, being named to the First Team and Bravi was accorded Player of the Year honors, while Beattie claimed the Rookie of the Year award.
In addition to being named the 2014 NESCAC Coach of the Year, Meghan Gillis was also named a finalist for the American Hockey Coaches Association (ACHA) National Coach of the Year.
|Charlie Billadeau '15|
"It was a privilege to be a part of everything that happened last year," said Gillis. "The team was relentless and really came together in the latter half of the season. We look forward to building on that momentum moving forward."
Lost from last year's team were two key players: Bravi and fellow co-captain Gabby Vukasin. Bravi led the Ephs in goals scored (20) and assists (20) last season, while Vukasin netted nine goals and assisted on nine. Bravi played 97 games at Williams and tallied 40 goals and registered 46 assists (86 points) and Vukasin appeared in 99 contests, scoring 34 goals and notching 27 assists (61 points). Vukasin sits second all-time in game winning goals.
This season, Gillis returns three of her top five scorers and nine of the 11 who amassed double digits in points last winter. The Ephs have talent, depth, and experience from one end of the rink to the other.
Beattie, a sophomore, is the top returning scorer having fired in 14 goals and assisting on 18 goals from the blue line. Senior assistant captain Caitlin Conlon, juniors Hadley DesMeules and Talia Simon are all battle-tested returnees who will give Gillis plenty of options on defense. Conlon, an assistant captain who also lettered four years in field hockey, had 18 points last season, scoring one goal and registering 17 assists. Simon notched 10 points last winter with a goal and nine assists.
"We are excited about the group of defensemen we have for the upcoming season," Gillis added. "The depth at the blue line enables the D to play a fast-paced offensive style."
Senior goalie Charlie Billadeau returns after an 8-7-3 record in 18 starts in 2013-14. Billadeau compiled a .905 save percentage, allowed 2.64 goals a game, and fashioned two shutouts last season. Billadeau has started 55 games for the Ephs and owns eight shutouts.
Backing up Billadeau will be sophomore Margaret Draper who doubles as the Ephs' starting field hockey goalie. Playing eight games in her first season in purple Draper went 6-2-0 and posted three shutouts. Draper's save percentage in her debut season was .897 and her goals against average was 2.23.
Expected to push for time between the pipes this winter is first-year Christina Cleroux (New Glasgow, Nova Scotia) who had a stellar career at the Middlesex School in Concord, MA.
"Similar to the D, we have a trio of talented goaltenders who will vie for time between the pipes," stated Gillis. "They are a group who will push one another to get better."
Up front Gillis will have senior leadership in co-captains Andree Heller and Nitsan Goldstein, Gwendolyn Schultz, Perry McCarthy and Sam Cutts. In 2013-2014, Andree Heller scored nine goals and contributed eight assists for 17 points and Gwendolyn Schultz scored three goals and had seven assists for 10 points.
|Michaela Levine '16|
Junior forward Michaela Levine posted impressive numbers as she netted 10 goals and assisted on 10, compiling 20 points on the year. Sophomore Emily Krueger was right behind Levine with 19 points on seven goals and a dozen assists. Sophomore Chelsey Stevenson contributed 11 points on four goals and seven assists.
"Obviously we will miss Bravi and Vukasin's point production from last season," noted Gillis. "However, we feel as though our returning group, coupled with our three first years will create a more balanced attack and point production from various positions."
Gillis's Ephs are ranked 9th in the 10-team national D3Hockey.com pre-season national poll.
"I believe the NESCAC is the best league to play in for D3 women's hockey as we saw last year with the eighth seed upsetting the one seed and the seven seed upsetting the two seed in NESCAC quarterfinals," Gillis remarked. "Every weekend is a challenge for our team."
The Ephs will open the 2014-15 season on the road when they take on Little Three and NESCAC opponent Wesleyan in Middletown, Connecticut on Saturday, November 15 at 7:00 PM. The very next day the Ephs will play Wesleyan again in Middletown at 3:00 PM.
The first of 12 home games for the Ephs will be November 29 when they host Utica College at 7:00 PM in Lansing Chapman Rink.