By SARAH PARK
The No. 18 ranked University of Mary Washington field hockey team concluded their season after losing to Wesley College in the Capital Athletic Conference tournament semifinals last Wednesday, Nov. 2. The Eagles finished 15-5 overall and 5-2 in conference play.
The beginning of the season was uncertain for the Eagles, as former Head Coach Dana Hall stepped down after 22 years of coaching.
However, any doubts about new Head Coach Lindsey Elliot were immediately cleared as Elliot led the Eagles to victories against two nationally ranked opponents in the first two home games of the season. UMW has been the only team so far to defeat Old Dominion Athletic Conference champion Lynchburg College
“I miss Coach Hall, but we did get a great coach to replace her,” sophomore forward Caitlin Baker said. “[Elliot] added her own twists to drills that worked, but didn’t try to change our formation around so we could still play like how we used to play.”
As the season progressed, the Eagles continued their crusade past other formidable opponents, such as Washington & Lee University, St. Mary’s College and Christopher Newport University (CNU).
“Beating CNU was a huge highlight of our season, especially since they are a tough team,” Baker said. The last time the Eagles defeated the Captains before this year was in back in 2004.
Going into the postseason, the Eagles had high hopes of winning the CAC title for a second year in a row. The Eagles triumphed over CAC foe Stevenson in the first round of the tournament before losing to Wesley in the semifinals 1-0. In the regular season, UMW lost to Wesley 3-2 in penalty strokes.
“We outplayed them. Unfortunately, two of our goals were called back, and we just couldn’t penetrate their defense,” Elliot said. “I feel like we were definitely the better team, but sometimes, the better team doesn’t win.”
The loss not only knocked UMW out of the CAC tournament, but also decreased their chances of receiving a bid into the NCAA tournament. Results posted on Nov. 6 indicated that Salisbury would be the only CAC team to receive an invite to play in the tournament.
“In the back of all of our heads, we thought we had a better chance [of getting a bid] because we did have a good record and we were ranked all season,” Baker said. “When we saw the teams that [did get a bid] like CNU, we were disappointed.”
Despite their disappointment, the Lady Eagles are now focused on preparations for their 2012 season, which includes traveling to Italy during spring break for offseason training.
“[The players] will really be focusing on weight training this spring,” Elliot stated. “When I start to have practices with them, we will really be focusing on footwork and playing.”
The Eagles will be losing three seniors, including forward Morgan Jones. Jones has been a vital part of UMW’s offense, scoring 49 goals in her career as well as breaking the school’s single-season goals record for goals in a season with 24 goals. Jones was also invited to participate in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division III Senior Game.
“It will be sad to see the seniors go; they are impact players,” Elliot noted. “But we have players there [to replace them], it’s just a matter of if they want to step up and take those positions.”
Though some upperclassmen departed, the Eagles will be returning many key players such as Baker, junior midfielder Lisa Charney, and junior goalkeeper Claire Gianelle.
When asked about her hopes for next fall, Elliot replied that UMW has big aspirations.
“Hopefully, [we will] make it to the CAC championship round instead of semifinals, and get that NCAA bid.