STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut field hockey team, winners of two of the past three NCAA championships, officially opened preseason workouts on Wednesday – and have been braving the heat ever since.
Following Friday’s morning practice session, the Huskies prepare for Saturday night’s scrimmage against Boston University at the George J. Sherman-Family Sports Complex. It is open to the public and action begins at 7:15 p.m. (ET).
The humid weather from Wednesday and Thursday turned to straight heat on Friday, as UConn strategically schedules practices around the hottest times of the day.
“Definitely hard to practice on these hot days. Especially as a goalkeeper,” said Nina Klein, a redshirt-junior and member of the 2015 All-Mideast Region First Team. “We’re checking in with our athletic trainers constantly; it’s challenging, but we’re pushing through.”
The schedule for the team right now consists of morning practice from 9 a.m. to noon, then again from around 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“We’ve been doing two-a-day practices and then have team meetings and film study in between,” said head coach Nancy Stevens, who enters her 27th season at UConn. “It’s a full day.”
For the 22 players on the roster, the summer was geared towards preparing for a tough preseason of practices and individual workouts.
“Everyone is working really hard. Tactically we need to get back to where we were (last season), but things are looking good right now,” said Klein.
The Huskies graduated five starters in 2015, but return seven seniors (including three redshirt-juniors) in 2016, ensuring the experienced leadership remains on the team. Last season, UConn lost to Syracuse in the NCAA Semifinals.
“The seniors have been setting the tone at practice and we brought in five talented freshmen – three field players and two goalkeepers. They are all doing great,” said Stevens.
This week poses a unique schedule for UConn, which will host a scrimmage earlier in the preseason than usual when the Terriers come to town. In terms of expectations, Stevens is looking to set the foundation going forward.
“It will reveal what we need to work on before we go out to California. We hope to play a lot of players and it will reveal our strengths and weaknesses early,” said Stevens.
At this point, practices are directed toward individual skill work and fundamentals. The coaching staff will also work on building the offensive and defensive units to get the right players in the right spots.
UConn opens the season at Stanford on Aug. 26 and at Pacific on Aug. 28. For Stevens, it will be the start of her 38th season as a head coach.
“It’s an interesting profession because you’re working with the same age group; 18-22 year-olds every year and I think that’s what keeps it fresh, fun and exciting,” said Stevens. “This age group has passion and it’s contagious.”