Field Hockey: Taking on the Colonial: round two

Field Hockey: Taking on the Colonial: round two

Dominant. Competitive. Hardworking.

Pick your adjective, because they all describe the most successful team on campus in recent years.

Head coach Cheryl Murtagh and the Northeastern field hockey team moved forcefully into the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) last season after four straight America East Championships. They won 12 straight games in September, ending the season with a 16-6 (6-2 CAA) record. But they lost the championship game to No. 4 Old Dominion 3-0, failing to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.

Despite the disappointing end, the Huskies finished the year ranked No. 10 in the country in scoring.

“We came off a good scoring year and a lot of those players are returning,” Murtagh said. “Our attack positions are pretty solid but our defense has strong returners and newcomers.”

The roster has changed during the off-season: All-American back Lauren Edelmeier graduated along with midfielder Jay Quinn, who was third on the team last season with 11 goals and 25 points.

Most notably, however, was the transfer of offensive spark plug Michaela O’Malley to Ohio State. The junior forward played in every game for the Huskies last season, taking 29 shots on goal and scoring seven times.

“Our strength this season is that we only lost two seniors,” said senior captain Whitney Shean. “We have a lot of experienced players coming back and we already work well together.”

But if anyone knows how to stack a roster with talented newcomers it is Murtagh, and that is what she has done for this season.

Junior transfer Briana Keene comes to the Huskies’ forward line from Fairfield, where she played two years, leading the Stags in scoring with 18 points in 2005.

Incoming freshmen Casey Duncheon from Los Gatos, Calif., and Walpole native Meg Sweeney will join the NU offense. Sweeney was the leading scorer in Eastern Massachusetts last year.

Murtagh also brought in players skilled in multiple positions. Bridget Griffin and Montana Hewlett can play both midfield and forward. Hewlett played for both the Under-18 and Under-21 provincial teams for British Columbia.

In the back, freshmen Kat Welch and Suzanne Hazelzet will contend for playing time.

The class of 2011 will have to work for field time this season because the Huskies’ returning players have depth returning in every position.

Shean will return as co-captain after leading the team with 19 goals and 49 assists last year. She will see time as both a midfielder and a forward after her All-American junior season. Shean led the CAA in points per game and goals per game, and was named to the CAA All-Conference first team and CAA All-Tournament team in 2005.

Joining Shean in the midfield will be senior co-captain Sarah Eckhoff, who started all 22 games for the Huskies last season and scored six goals.

Four other seniors return to the lineup including defender Natalie Singelais, who led the team with 12 assists last year.

“We have a lot of juniors and seniors that will help guide the freshmen and sophomores,” said junior assistant captain Ashley Webber. “We all look up to one another.”

Defenders Megan Troxel and Heather Bernstein and midfielder Joy Earley are all returning as seniors for their final season in Northeastern jerseys. Troxel started 20 games last year and Earley appeared in 12 games, registering one shot.

The Husky offense is helped by Webber, who scored 15 goals last season. Webber will play in both the midfield and forward line. She was named to the CAA All-Conference second team and the Dartfish/NFHCA Division I All-Region first team in 2005.

Junior midfielder Ashley D’Ambra, also an assistant captain, started every game last season. She recorded her first collegiate point with an assist in 3-2 win over Hofstra in the CAA semifinals on Nov. 5.

“We have all worked together a lot this summer at camps and played together at night so we are a very tight unit and we work well together,” Webber said.

Junior Stephanie Casper will help the offense finish games after scoring three game-winning goals in 17 appearances last season. She ended the season with five goals on 21 shots.

For the second consecutive year the Huskies’ weakness is in the goal. Since Diana Nelson graduated in 2004, the Huskies have struggled to find someone to match her 180 career saves.

Sophomore Colleen Duffy made the most starts last year, tallying 68 saves in 17 appearances. Juniors Meaghan Dorsi and Liz Centofanti saw limited playing time last season but will both contend for playing time. Centofanti played in six games, starting five last season. She allowed 15 goals. Dorsi made one appearance in 2005, playing the final six and a half minutes of NU’s 6-3 win at Holy Cross on Sept. 10.

Freshman Samantha Sewell will also vie for the starting spot. The Bethlehem, Penn. native was named All-Conference, All-Area and All-LVIAC All-Star her senior year as well as being honored as the team’s MVP.

“The goalies have to step it up but I think they are up to the challenge,” Murtagh said. “We are looking for them to step up and they did in the spring.”

The Huskies’ 2006 season kicks off Aug. 26 at New Hampshire and the first home game is Sept. 8 against Providence at Sweeney Field.

They will face seven teams that were nationally ranked at the end of last season, including conference rival No. 3 Old Dominion Oct. 21. The Huskies also face six NCAA Tournament participants and three conference champions.

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