Aug. 27, 2009
STORRS, Conn. -
The University of Connecticut field hockey team will open the 2009 season on Friday, August 28, when it plays host to Temple at the George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex beginning at 3:00 p.m. (ET).
The Huskies return five starters and 19 letterwinners from last season's squad that captured a share of the BIG EAST regular season title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh consecutive season.
UConn will wrap up the opening weekend of play with another home contest against Fairfield on Sunday, August 30, beginning at 12 p.m.
A preview of the 2009 UConn Field Hockey Team is below:
The University of Connecticut field hockey team welcomes in an infusion of new talent to go along with a core group of returning veterans which will be looking to lead the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth consecutive season.
The Huskies will feature an eight-player incoming class that includes six freshmen and two transfers, which hail from three different states and three countries.
The incoming talent is expected to contribute immediately for Connecticut in 2009 as they will be looked at to help balance out the loss of six starters from the 2008 squad that finished 17-4 and captured a share of the BIG EAST regular season title.
"We have a unique incoming class that includes eight outstanding new players," UConn head coach Nancy Stevens said. "It is an interesting class in that it features our first gray shirt in Alicia Angelini, who had the advantage of training and competing with us all spring and summer. Also, it is nice to bring in a couple of transfers with experience to help balance things out."
One of the key members of the 2009 incoming class is senior Loren Sherer. Sherer helped lead Durham University in England to the English University Championship prior to her arrival at UConn and also competed for the English U-21 National Team and English Junior World Cup Team this summer. She is expected to make an immediate impact on the attack and help ease the loss of Lauren Aird, who graduated last year as the third-leading point producer in Connecticut annals.
Other players who are expected to contribute at forward for the Huskies in 2009 include Ali Blankmeyer
, Robin Kleine
and Cara Silverman
. Silverman honed up her skills this summer by helping the Team USA to its best-ever finish at the 2009 Maccabi Games and earning a silver medal.
Also in the mix on the attack will be Katie Littlejohn, Bethany Semlear and incoming freshman Erin Koonz.
The leader of the midfield and the quarterback of the offensive attack will be Melissa Gonzalez, who enters the season as the Huskies' top returning scorer from a year ago. A member of the U-21 U.S. National Team, Gonzalez also polished up this summer by competing for the 2009 U.S. Junior World Cup Team.
"Melissa is a magician with the ball and has improved exponentially since she has joined us," Stevens said. "The international experience she has been able to gain has been enormous in her development. Melissa is a set up player, which is why we are moving her to midfield where she will be able to direct the attack."
The midfield also is probably the position where the Huskies enter the season feeling they have the most depth. Incoming sisters Alicia and Jestine Angelini should provide the Huskies with solid options at the position along with Kim Kryzk, Anna Easty and Ashley Morgan.
The biggest challenge for the Connecticut coaching staff will be replacing all four starters on a defensive unit that has been amongst the nation's stingiest over the past few seasons.
Gone is three-time BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year and two-time first-team All-America selection Jennifer Kleinhans, along with Meghan Wheeler, Katie Scully and Jill Kleeblad.
One of the players expected to anchor the defense will be sophomore Rayell Heistand, who along with the other aforementioned players, had the opportunity to compete internationally at the Junior World Cup this summer.
Joining Heistand at back will be Allison Angulo, who is the projected starter at right back and has the ability to get out on the attack.
Also in the mix in the defensive backfield will be Kryzk, Amanda Madajewski, Lizzie Dunbar, Colleen Connolly and Vicky Arthur.
"We have played a strong spring season schedule to prepare and build the defense so they would be ready to go," Stevens said. "I think it is going to be a matter of trying to mesh the incoming talent with the talent that is already here and we have some great incoming talent."
Without question, the most stable position on the field will be in goal, where senior Andrea Mainiero returns for the fourth season as the Huskies' starting netminder. As a junior, Mainiero ranked third nationally in goals against average at 0.95 and sixth in save percentage at .792.
Backing up Mainiero will be junior Allison Karpiak, who saw her first game action a year ago with a pair of appearances. Also providing additonal depth in goal is incoming freshman Sydney Kolysher.
As always, the 2009 schedule features many challenges, both in conference and out, that will help Connecticut in its preparation for another deep run into the postseason.
The Huskies will open with its first three games on its home turf before heading to Penn State a crucial non-conference test on Sept. 6. In all, UConn will meet a total of six teams that qualified for the 2008 NCAA Tournament and seven teams that finished ranked among the top 20 nationally a year ago.
"We have some good early season challenges including road games at Penn State and Michigan," Stevens said. "We open BIG EAST play at Providence, which is also the site of the conference tournament before facing a number of other teams that qualified for the NCAA's a year ago, including Princeton and Albany".