Aug. 21, 2006
Stanford, Ca - An improved offense, a solid defense, several key returning starters and an excellent group of new players has Stanford field hockey head coach Lesley Irvine ready for a challenging and promising 2006 season.
"I am definitely excited about this year's team," said Irvine, who is entering her fourth season on The Farm. "The team has worked extremely hard during the off-season. One of our strengths will be our offense. We have some great returning players and some excellent new talent. One of our challenges will be replacing the loss of three of our defenders to graduation, but we have several options so we're very excited to assess those "
Stanford opens the 2006 season with home games against Massachusetts on Saturday (1 p.m.) and against defending NCAA champion Maryland on Sunday (3:00 p.m.).
Five of Stanford's top seven scorers from last year are returning which means Stanford will have the ability and experience to score more goals in 2006. Caroline Hussey, Jess Zutz, Julia Drewes, Liz Robinson and Bailey Richardson combined to score 29 of Stanford's 38 goals last year. This quintet of talented players returns. Hussey, a sophomore, led Stanford scorers last year in points (19) and goals (9) as a starter. Hussey gained earned NorPac Rookie of the Year and first team all-league honors. Irvine says Hussey has the ability to read the play and be in the right place at the right time.
"Caroline is extremely quick and is in great shape," said Irvine. "A lot of her goals are self made and come from sheer determination and hustle "
Hussey's ability to work well with Zutz will cause double trouble for Stanford's opponents in 2006.
"She loves to pass the ball," said Irvine of Zutz, a two-year starter who earned all-league honors last year by scoring 17 points and eight goals, both second best efforts on the Cardinal behind Hussey. "She has great vision and likes to distribute the ball unselfishly. She creates a lot of opportunities for the players around her. Caroline and Jess work very well together"
Drewes moved to midfield last year and will look to continue playing in that position as the season begins in 2006. Drewes, a senior, ranked third on the team with five goals last year.
Two other scoring threats returning from last year include Liz Robinson and Bailey Richardson. Robinson attempted 38 shots on goal last year, and connected on four goals.
Richardson's main forte is defense and she will work with Aska Sturdevan to keep the opposition from scoring. Stanford lost two outstanding defenders to graduation (Lyndsay Erickson and Tammy Shuer), but Irvine is confident that with Richardson and Sturdevan and the mix of current and new talent on the team, Stanford will be stingy with giving up goals to the opposition.
"It will be interesting to see who will take those wing defensive positions this year," said Irvine. "We have some talented freshman players coming in as well as some returning players who have improved. We're really excited to see who will step in there. We have some really dynamic players"
Madison Bell returns as Stanford's top goalkeeper. Bell is the only goalkeeper on the roster so being injury free will be critical for Stanford in 2006. "The coaching staff anticipates Madison having a breakout season in 2006," said Irvine. "Madi has worked extremely hard to get to where she is and we're excited for her to showcase this"
Bell started 15 of Stanford's 21 games last year, and participated in four shutouts.
Stanford will also have a new assistant coach who specializes in defense, Mandy Robinson, who was a standout All-American defender during her playing days at Penn State. "Mandy has a genuine passion for coaching," said Irvine. "She is excited to contribute to the program right away. She has a lot to teach" Other top returnees include Chloe Bade, Hilary Braun, Ali Fox, Jamie Hais and Elizabeth Rabenstine. Katherine Brooks, who did not play last year, also returns.
Stanford recruited nine freshmen which will push the 2006 Stanford roster to 22 players.
"One of our challenges here at Stanford is to build a large roster therefore giving us the ability to scrimmage each other during practice," said Irvine. "This is the largest group of players I have had since I have been here. The numbers will also increase the competition for certain positions on the field so that helps raise the intensity day to day"
The nine new players are outstanding. The list includes Annika Alexander-Ozinkas, Rachel Bush, Jennifer Luther, Lisa Maffucci, Rachel Mozenter, Marlana Shile, Nora Soza, Katherine Swank, and Midori Uehara.. The Stanford coaches are extremely excited about all the players and what they bring to the program. Some individuals to highlight include Luther, Soza and Mozenter. Luther hails from Canada, and is considered a strong and versatile player who could make an impact, according to the Cardinal coaches. Soza is an experienced player who could also challenge for playing time. Mozenter is extremely athletic and will bring speed and versatility to the team.
"This is a very strong freshman class," said Irvine. "There are several players who we expect to challenge for playing time right away"
Stanford will again have an extremely tough, challenging schedule in 2006. Stanford has scheduled nine home games including games against defending NCAA champion Maryland (August 27, 3:00 p.m.) and Wake Forest (September., 1:00 p.m.) which had won three straight NCAA titles previous to Maryland's win last year. The regular season opener is August 26 against Massachuse at 1:00 p.m.
"We're really excited about the schedule," said Irvine. "In my opinion it is very important to schedule top class teams every season. It is critical to set the standard for the team and program. We go in to every game knowing it can be anyone's game on that day. We will also be well prepared for our conference games"
Every year, Stanford takes road trips to other parts of the United States to seek out great competition. This year is no exception. Road trips will take Stanford to the states of Iowa, Illinois and Virginia during the regular season to play six matches. " said Irvine. "I think it's great to travel and see the country. A lot of our players are from the East Coast. It's definitely a recruiting element to tell the players that you will be playing in a part of the country that you call home."
Traveling to different parts of the country also exposes the sport of collegiate field hockey to many people. Irvine hails from England where she began playing field hockey. She graduated and played at the University of Iowa.
"Field hockey is actually the second most played sport in the world," said Irvine. "A lot of people who have watched the sport in the United States will be amazed at what they see. It's a lot like soccer with its passing patterns. It's a physical game with a quick pace. It's a free flowing game. There are a lot of things that you can appreciate about the game"
Stanford Field Hockey is the longest running of 35 current varsity sports at Stanford. "We have a huge alumni network. There is a lot of tradition in this program that goes back many decades. We are also very proud of how this program and the athletes involved have consistently been able to maintain excellence on the field and in the classroom. It is a defining factor for this program"