Fall preview: Field hockey looks to be more consistent in 2010

Fall preview: Field hockey looks to be more consistent in 2010

By Chris Tramontozzi, News Staff

After an up-and-down 2009 season with two extended winning streaks and two extended losing streaks, the field hockey team is looking to put forth a more consistent effort this season to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

“Our goal is to win the CAA [Colonial Athletic Association] and be competitive in every game we play,” said Cheryl Murtagh, who is entering her 23rd season as head coach. “We are a year older and the kids have been doing great things in summer leagues this year training towards making a run at the title.”

Northeastern finished last season with a record of 9-9 overall and 3-4 in the CAA. The Huskies came out of the gates firing, winning four of their first six games. The two losses were in very tight games against nationally-ranked No. 3 Syracuse University and a Pacific-10 team in Stanford University.

From there, the squad lost two games in a row against ranked teams, No. 11 University of Massachusetts-Amherst and No. 15 Old Dominion University. But this didn’t look like it would stop the Huskies as they continued to win five straight games, including a victory over No. 17 University of Delaware.

That was the last high point of the season Northeastern went on to lose its last five games of the year, including a difficult 3-2 double-overtime loss to No. 11 James Madison University in the last game of the season. The team finished the season sixth in the nine-team league, missing the playoffs.

This year, the Huskies open up their season on the road against Northwestern, a Big Ten team, followed by Syracuse, a team that is consistently one of the better teams in field hockey having made the NCAA Tournament each of the past two seasons.

“These are the games we look forward to,” Murtagh said. “These tough tests early on allow us to show people and ourselves how good we are.”

From there, the Huskies have three home games against Massachusetts, University of Maine and Quinnipiac University before they head cross-town to face rival Boston University.

“BU and BC, those games are always fun,” junior midfielder Annie Clayman said. “Our schools being so close makes it very competitive.”

The Huskies will then proceed to open up their CAA schedule against Old Dominion, who finished fifth last season. Their biggest conference tests will come against Delaware and Drexel who finished one and two in the CAA, both making the NCAA tournament.

“All CAA games are important,” Clayman said. “We need to go into every game thinking that if we lose it could be the difference between us winning or losing the CAA. That was something some of the young players did not understand last year.”

Northeastern returns 16 letter winners from last year, including captain and senior back Anne-Rieke Stuhlman. The only player lost to graduation from last season was captain and back Montana Hewlett.

Also returning is senior midfielder Pamela Aldridge, who despite only playing seven games due to a torn ACL, was fifth on the team in scoring. Aldridge tallied three goals and seven points in limited action and had the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory over Boston University Sept. 13 at Sweeney Field.

“Anne, [senior midfielder and forward] Meg Sweeney, and Pam Aldridge give us a great core of experienced players” Murtagh said. “They are not happy with the way the team played last year and they are all ready to come out and lead this team and do well.”

NU will look to get solid contributions again from sophomore Crystal Poland, who was named CAA Rookie of the Year last season after leading the team in scoring as a freshman with 12 goals and 30 points.

Starting in goal will be sophomore Lizzie Priest, who finished with a 2.15 goals-against average in 18 starts and had three shutouts as a freshman.

The Huskies announced Monday the recruiting class for the 2010 season. It includes seven girls joining the returning three seniors, six juniors and seven sophomores.

The freshmen recruiting class includes goalkeeper Cara Ahlgrim, forward Liny Bennett, mid/forward Georgina Beven, forward Maggie Burke, back Kari Covelski, forward Kelly Dunn and goalkeeper Tameka Geaslen.

Like Poland and Priest from last season, Murtagh said she expects some of these freshmen to step up and contribute right away based on their playing style.

“I expect Dunn, Bennett, Ahlgrim and Covelski to help us out a lot,” Murtagh said. “Ahlgrim will give us some time in goal to give Priest some rest and we hope that Covelski will give us a lot of minutes at forward.”

NU opens the season Aug. 28 and 29 with a two-game set against Northwestern and Syracuse. The team’s first home game is Sept. 3 against UMass-Amherst at Sweeney Field.

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