Aug 30, 2013
STORRS, Conn. - For most teams, a nineteen-win season that includes a conference tournament championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament is considered a superb achievement. But for the University of Connecticut field hockey team, the 2012 season, which saw the Huskies go 19-3 and reach the Quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament, only serves as motivation for the team to take the next step towards national glory. Senior forward Marie Elena Bolles enters her final year of eligibility ready to lead the 2013 Huskies deep into the postseason.
Bolles, who hails from Phoenixville, Pa., took home a slew of individual awards for her play in 2012. The forward started in all 22 games for the Huskies, finishing with 12 goals, eight assists and 32 points en route to being named 2012 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year. It marked the fifth time a Connecticut player has taken home the accolade and the first since Loren Sherer in 2009. Bolles also earned a mention from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association on the All-Mideast Region First Team and as a Third Team All-America selection.
"It was a nice little surprise last year," Bolles said of her conference award. "I wasn't really expecting it and I was more worried about helping the team succeed. I'm not really looking much at individual stats throughout the year, but it was an honor to receive the award."
Her play earned her a spot on Team USA in the 2013 World Junior Cup. Bolles scored two goals for Team USA in the competition this summer, helping lead the United States to victories over Ghana and South Africa. The US team ended the competition at 3-3, earning a best-ever seventh-place finish out of 16 teams.
"It was really cool," the senior said on her time with Team USA. "The level of play was so high. I got to play with a lot of versatile players and see a different coaching style, which is important because I think I can bring back some of those positives to our team this season."
Expectations are high for the 2013 Huskies, just two years removed from a trip to the National Semifinal. Connecticut opens up play in Palo Alto, Calif., taking on Stanford on August 31st. Bolles understands the importance of getting off to a quick start.
"It's a new team and a young team," she said. "We need to just try and grow each game to see how good we can get. It's really important for us to play well. Stanford's always a good team and this year they look really good, so it's important to go out there and make a statement."
The field hockey team is in a unique position, as it remains in the BIG EAST Conference for the 2013 season while many of UConn's other teams have transitioned to the American Athletic Conference. Despite the uncertainty, the Huskies received seven first-place votes from coaches in the conference and were picked to win the BIG EAST this season. Bolles received the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year nod.
"I think we're just going to take each game and go out there and play hard. We can't be dwelling on all the conference stuff. I think no matter who we're playing, we're going out there to compete."
Bolles' leadership has been a major part of the Huskies' success and is a big reason why she was named a 2013 Captain, along with goalkeeper Sarah Mansfield. The roster features seven freshmen and eight sophomores, including Bolles' younger sister, Olivia.
The chance for Bolles to play alongside her sister is a rare opportunity and one that she plans on cherishing in her final season.
"It's awesome," she said. "I'm so excited for this season. We had one year in high school where I was a senior and she was a freshman and it was one of the best seasons of my life. I'm really looking forward to playing with her again. She's my best friend. I think she pushes me harder. We are always helping each other out which I think is going to really be useful as we play some of the best teams in the country."
Since Bolles arrived in 2010, the Huskies have gone a remarkable 32-3 at the George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex. Connecticut hasn't lost a regular season at home since September 18th, 2011. In fact, you'd have to go back to the 2005 season to find a year when the Huskies have lost more than one game in Storrs. The ability for the Huskies to defend their turf is something that Bolles will be looking for again this season.
"It's nice to play well at home," she said. "We have a pretty good track record here over the last few years and that is something we take a lot of pride in. We want to make it hard for teams to come in here and beat us."
As the No. 4 Huskies prepare to make the cross-country travel to California this weekend to officially kick off the season, Bolles is primed for another fantastic year and gives the Huskies a premier scoring threat at the forward position.