Aug. 23, 2004
Stanford, Calif. -
The 2004 Stanford field hockey team is looking to build on the momentum it gained with its surge late last season when the Cardinal pulled out a pair of overtime games in the NorPac Tournament to finish third in the conference. Although Stanford will be young in 2004 with just one senior on its roster, six key returning starters and a total of 12 letterwinners coming back give the Cardinal an excellent nucleus to build around.
This season could be the start of something special for field hockey on The Farm as head coach Lesley Irvine will have the opportunity to mold her young and talented roster.
"I'm looking forward to not only this season but the next couple of years," said Irvine. "This really should be a big teaching year that will pay dividends both now and in the future. This is a great group to coach that is definitely on the right track."
Senior midfielder Eleanor Morgan is the team's lone senior, one of the six starters returning and a co-captain. Morgan has excellent distribution skills and has become a force for the Cardinal in the midfield, heading into her senior season as the team's active career leader in both points (21) and assists (11).
"There will be pressure on Eleanor because she is our lone senior," admitted Irvine. "But, we fully expect her to be able to handle it and flourish in her new role. She is a talented player that also makes those around her much better."
Three of the four juniors on this year's club started all 19 games last season and the other is poised to move into a starting role this season. Versatile midfielder/defender Lyndsay Erickson had a breakout season in 2003, ranking second on the club in both points (15) and goals (6), as well as tied for 10th in the NorPac in goals per game (0.32). Midfielder Missy Halliday scored nine points on four goals and one assist a year ago and is quickly developing into one of the top midfielders in the conference. Defender Tammy Shuer has been named a co-captain along with Morgan for 2004 after developing into one of the team's most reliable players on defense last season. Goalkeeper Ana Kralovec saw limited playing time a year ago, primarily due to injury, but is expected to have the first shot at the open spot in the net this season. Kralovec is not without experience as she has played 21 games during her first two seasons. She had a big year as a freshman when she was named NorPac Rookie of the Week twice, played in 15 games, held opponents to a 1.34 GAA and took part in six Stanford shutouts.
"This is a great class and the core unit of the team," said Irvine. "They offer variety and talent right down the field."
Another key to Stanford's fate in 2004 could be its large sophomore class of seven players that makes up nearly half of the team's 16-player roster. The class features two of the top up-and-coming NorPac defenders in Julia Drewes and Aska Sturdevan. Both started all 19 games in their rookie campaigns a year ago. Sturdevan also contributed on the offensive end, tying for third on the club in both points (9) and goals (4), while adding a pair of defensive saves. Drewes led the team with three defensive saves. Jamie Hais was also a part-time starter on defense and in the midfield last year, playing in 14 games with seven starts. Forward Liz Robinson came off the bench in 10 games and contributed a point, while forward Katherine Brooks, midfielder/forward Shannon Donahue and midfielder/defender Ellen Hunter picked up valuable experience.
"We have some excellent potential in our sophomore class, and this is a year where we will ask a lot of them," said Irvine.
Stanford also has a promising freshman group in midfielder/forwards Mandy Kovach, Elizabeth Thompson and Jessica Zutz, as well as goalkeeper Madison Bell. Zutz earned First Team All-American honors as a senior last year when she scored 52 points on 17 goals and 18 assists. Bell finished her prep career with 36 career shutouts and was a Regional All-American as a senior in 2003. Kovach is a two-time All-Northeast Ohio league standout, while Thompson scored 57 career points (25 goals, seven assists) in her varsity prep career, earning First Team All-State honors in her final campaign.
"As a program, we always look to bring in freshmen that have the ability to make an impact on the team immediately, and we find that they thrive on that," emphasized Irvine. "This group wants to play now, and especially with our young team, they understand that they have an opportunity to do just that."
Stanford will open its 2004 campaign with five consecutive home games as Hofstra, Indiana, Providence, Boston University and Louisville come to The Farm in a short eight-day stretch from August 28 - September 5. The Cardinal will then take a three-game trip to the Midwest (September 8-11) to face Northwestern, Iowa and Central Michigan, before returning home for its final NorPac tune-up versus Drexel (September 14). Stanford begins its double round-robin conference schedule at Pacific (September 21) and hosts California (September 25) before a key three-game conference road trip to Southwest Missouri State (October 1-2) and Saint Louis (October 4). Stanford will play Boston College (October 10) in a neutral game in Berkeley for its final non-conference contest of the season before finishing league and regular season play versus Pacific (October 23) and at California (October 30).
The postseason begins with the NorPac Championships being hosted by Davidson this year from November 4-6. The winner of the event will play in an NCAA Play-In Game on November 9 versus the champion of another conference with the Play-In winner advancing to the 16-team NCAA Tournament. Stanford has reached the finals the NorPac Tournament in five of the six years since its inception in 1998 and has won the title twice (1998, 2000). The Cardinal made the most recent of its seven trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and has also made three AIAW postseason showings (1975, '76, '79).
"We have a strong desire and will to win," summarized Irvine. "This group is absorbing information, and it's an exciting team to coach. We are really balanced in terms of the talent among individuals, and sometimes the best teams are not the ones that have the most outstanding individuals but the ones that have balance across the board."