2013 Outlook: Bulldogs Seek Return to Top of League

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The Yale field hockey huddle. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Six of Top Seven Scorers from a Year Ago Back

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale field hockey team enters the 2013 season two years removed from winning a share of the Ivy League title, and four starters from that championship squad are still around. Last year's attempt at a repeat was derailed by injuries and three one-goal losses in league games, but the talent remains in place for the Bulldogs to challenge for a spot at the top of the league again this year. Pam Stuper, the 2009 NFHCA Mideast Region Coach of the Year, enters her ninth season at Yale having lost four players from last year's team to graduation, but six of the top seven scorers are back.

The 2013 Bulldogs can look for leadership from six seniors who all were a part of that run to the Ivy League title two years ago -- including four who started every game that year. In addition to the four juniors and four sophomores this year, the Bulldogs have added six freshmen.

Here is a position-by-position look at the team heading into the 2013 season, which starts Sept. 6 vs. Virginia:

 

Forward

Three senior forwards lead the way for this veteran group. Senior Erica Borgo, who has started all 51 games of her career, has one more season to continue making edits to the Yale record book. She enters the year fourth on Yale's career assists list with 27 and ninth on Yale's career points list with 65 (19-27-65). The team's leader in goals and points last season (6-3-15), Borgo set the school mark for assists as a sophomore and finished second in the country in assists per game (17 in 17 games). She is a three-time All-Ivy selection (first team as a sophomore and as a junior, second team as a freshman). A vocal leader, she provides speed on attack and is the team's top inserter on penalty corners.

Senior forward Gabby Garcia continued her development as a forward last season, having played back in high school. She earned a starting role for the first time, appearing in all 17 games and starting 16. Classmate Brooke Gogel was one of the more heartwarming stories of 2012; after an injury left her unable to play in 2011 she served as team manager, and was planning on continuing in that role last season. But with the team beset by injuries, she made a dramatic return to the field -- drawing a penalty corner that led to the game-winning goal in overtime at Harvard in her first game back. She wound up playing in the final 14 games, starting two, and finished fourth on the team with three goals. At the team's post-season banquet she earned the Amanda Walton Award, given by the Yale players and coaching staff to that team member who demonstrates the ability to confront challenges, displaying the courage to overcome them, while inspiring teammates with her work ethic and unselfish attitude.

Junior forward Jessie Accurso began emerging as a scoring threat last season, doubling her goal total from her freshman year and more than tripling the number of shots she took. With four goals and an assist, Accurso was second only to Borgo in scoring for the Bulldogs last year. She has not missed a game for her career, and has 31 starts.

Accurso's classmate, Grace McInerney, has made the move from back to forward. McInerney played in 13 games last season, a year after her freshman campaign was cut short by an injury.

Rhoni Gericke (Cape Town, South Africa), Yale's first player from South Africa, is the lone freshman forward. She was selected for the South African national U-16 high performance squad and played alongside three South African national team players with the WPCC 1st Ladies' team.

 

Midfield

One of Yale's biggest reasons for optimism heading into 2013 is the return of senior Georgia Holland, the team captain. Holland was a unanimous first team All-Ivy League selection as a sophomore after being second team All-Ivy (and Rookie of the Year) as a freshman. But her junior year, last season, ended early due to an injury in the third game.

Perhaps the easiest way to sum up Holland's impact since her arrival at Yale is with these numbers: .621 (the team's winning percentage in games she has played) vs. .357 (the team's winning percentage in games she has missed). Over the first three years of her career the Bulldogs went 23-14 with her, 5-9 without her.

Holland can play either midfield or back, and is also a key part of Yale's penalty corner units. In addition to tying for second on the team with nine goals in her last full season, "G" led the team with three defensive saves and tied for third on the team with 22 points.

Holland's comeback is already off to a good start. After taking part in USA Field Hockey's National Championship this past summer, Holland earned a spot on the U.S. roster for the Junior World Cup in Germany. She helped the U.S. finish in seventh place -- tied for the team's best finish in the event's history.

Holland's classmate Emily Schuckert has 24 starts over the last two years, including all 17 games last year. Schuckert led the team in assists with six. She is a past winner of the team's Coaches Award (given to the player who exemplifies principles, direction and persistence in pursuit of field hockey excellence at Yale) and the Senior Award (awarded by the senior class to a freshman team member who reflects positive contribution to the team's philosophy and whose individual character encourages the future direction and excellence of Yale Field Hockey).

Sophomore Nicole Wells made an immediate impression last year, starting 16 games and earning second team All-Ivy honors. She finished with two goals and one assist.  Her continued development should make Yale's transition game even more effective this year.

The freshman midfield class includes Kelsey Nolan (Lancaster, Pa.) and Emmy Reinwald (Stafford, Va.), who may also play back. Nolan was a third-team NFHCA All-American last year. Reinwald was an all-district selection in high school last year, captaining the team and earning the Coaches' Heart and Hustle Award.

 

Back

There are no pure backs in the senior class, so junior Megan Kirkham is the team's top veteran at this spot. Kirkham, who has been a part of the Canadian Junior National Team Training Squad, has appeared in 32 games in her first two seasons, including 13 starts last year.

The sophomore class includes Danee Fitzgerald, who appeared in 13 games last year. A past USA Field Hockey Futures participant, Fitzgerald has the potential to contribute more this year. Noelle Villa, who appeared in all 17 games and started six as a forward last year, has moved to back to give the Bulldogs added depth. Classmate Molly Wolf made a quick move into Yale's starting lineup, appearing in all 17 games and starting 16. She earned the team's Senior Award.

Steffi Katz (Newton, Mass.) and Alyssa Weiss (Potomac, Md.) are the freshman backs. Katz was a USA Field Hockey Futures Elite Championship selection in 2013, placing her as one of the top 72 players in the country at the U-19 level. Weiss has been a part of USA Field Hockey's Futures program since 2010.

 

Goalkeeper

Both goalies who saw playing time last year return, and a freshman has been added to the mix, making this a position of strength for the Bulldogs.

Senior Emily Cain has two full seasons of starting experience, including a second team All-Ivy selection in 2011 when she led the league in goals-against average (1.84) and was third in save percentage (.752). Last year she posted a .730 save percentage and a 2.86 goals-against average. With 20 wins, she has more wins than any Yale goalie since Krissy Nesburg '04 finished her career with 24 10 years ago.

Junior Heather Schlesier continued to develop behind Cain last year. She appeared in three games, stopping eight of the 11 shots she faced while totaling 70:28 in goal. A previous winner of Yale's Senior Award, Schlesier earned another distinction late last season. Recognizing her work in practice, the Bulldogs gave her a start as a forward in the Oct. 21 game vs. Albany. She then came on in relief of Cain to finish the game in goal.

Emilie Katz (Newton, Mass.), Steffi Katz' sister, was a USA Field Hockey Futures Elite Championship Selection in 2012, making her one of the top seven goalies at the U-19 level. She gives the team another excellent option in goal.

 

Schedule

The 17-game slate starts with a challenging match against No. 7 Virginia, one of five NCAA tournament teams from 2012 that are on Yale's schedule.  In addition to the seven Ivy League games -- starting with Alumnae Day Sept. 21 vs. Harvard -- the Bulldogs have 10 non-league games. Senior Day at Johnson Field is Nov. 9 vs. Brown, the regular season finale. The Bulldogs also plan to continue their "Get a Grip" campaign, which they started three years ago to raise awareness and funds for the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation in honor of Ona McConnell '13, who has the disease. Full details about that will be announced shortly.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity