WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Michelyne Pinard will spend the preseason trying to make her squad as uncomfortable as possible.
The goal the Ephs' head coach (143-37-22, .762 win pct.) has in mind is getting her program over what she called a "plateau" in recent years. Now, if a program is going to plateau, one would aspire to do so in the Ephs' fashion as they have won five of the last six NESCAC titles and played in the NCAA Tournament for six consecutive seasons.
However, Pinard feels there is a higher level out there for this squad.
"I think this team is ready to compete at a different level, to really push themselves," she said. "I think this group wants to revive the pursuit of attaining the next level. We're planning on pushing them harder than they've ever been pushed."
|Hayley Cook '14|
Williams lost five seniors, all who were named All-NESCAC, to graduation, but return one all-conference performer in senior back Carla Nicasio from the squad which finished 13-4-2 in 2012, won the conference championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where it fell to Wheaton (MA), 1-0.
In addition to the talents of tri-captain Nicasio, the Ephs senior group is bolstered by fellow captains Hayley Cook and Abby Conyers, who will be pivotal in the midfield. But the junior class may be as critical to the success as it includes goalkeepers Hannah Van Wetter and Carolina Echenique, backs Lily Wellenbach and Louisa Costa, midfielders Hana Tomozawa, Sarah Brink, Alex McInturf and Natalie Weyerhaeuser and forward Alison Magruder.
"They're (the tri-captains) going to lead the way, but we have a very experienced junior class as well," Pinard said. "Everyone remembers so vividly the feeling of that Wheaton loss and they've done everything they can to prepare and train so we don't relive it."
Nicasio was second on the team in 2012 with 12 points (4 goals, 4 assists), while Magruder was second in goals with five. Sophomore forward Abby Morss led the Eph with 13 points and six goals. Pinard had 14 different players score goals last season, with 10 of those players back for this campaign.
|Abby Conyers '14|
Scoring, as emphasized by Pinard in recent years, will be a team approach. She is prepared to try different methods for her team to grasp the notion.
"We're going to calculate people's goals during the preseason as a way we haven't tried before," Pinard said, "but the thought is we want to make everyone responsible for our goal scoring, from the back to the front. We're looking to attack out of the back. We want to identify the strength of all our players, then put each one in the best scenario to take advantage of it."
The sophomore class gained a lot of experience a year ago. In addition to Morss, forward Lindsey Vandergrift showed a goal-scoring touch with two tallies. Hannah Levin also netted two goals. Others in that deep class include midfielder Crystal Lewin, midfielder Mai Mitsuyama, midfielder Helena Barber, and back Zoe Trutner.
Pinard also expects impact from an incoming first-year class that includes goalkeepers Emily Hoyt and Tressa Palcheck and field players Audrey Thomas, Kristi Kirshe, Gabz Amos-Grosser, Katie Wardlaw, Maddie Swarr and Gabby Suarez.
"I'm hoping our strength is our depth and our ability to play 90-minute games back to back," Pinard said. "We have to, so I think depth is going to play out in positive ways for us. With that depth comes a lot of versatility too."
Part of that depth includes keepers Hoyt and Palchechk pushing veterans Van Wetter and Echenique for playing time. Last season, Van Wetter played in all 18 games, starting 11, and compiled a 0.88 goals against average and a .780 save percentage.
Last year, the Ephs started out 1-2 but rebounded to put together a stellar campaign. Pinard labeled it as "One of the best team experiences we've had in my time here. I think we learned a lot from that experience, but I also think we need to be more resilient, and by that I mean we need to be prepared to play on any type of surface on any given day and against every type of style we'll see this season."
The season begins Saturday when the Ephs travel to Maine for the season opener against conference rival Colby. Game time is 11 a.m.