2008 Outlook: Optimism Abounds

Aug. 20, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - There were many signs of progress for the Yale field hockey team last season, including a six-game winning streak that was the team's longest in four years. That trend continued during the offseason with a memorable spring break trip to Argentina that enabled the Bulldogs to hone their skills together in a unique environment. The team's improvement was evident by the end of spring practice back in the States. Now, with a rapidly maturing core of potential impact players, the Bulldogs hope to carry the momentum of their offseason strides into the 2008 season.

"`Amazing awaits' for the 2008 USA Olympians! I anticipate the same for the Yale Field Hockey team," said Yale head coach Pam Stuper, who enters her fourth season as head coach and 12th season overall at Yale. "This team has the athleticism, hockey ability and mentality to have a successful season."

Here is a position-by-position look at the 2008 Bulldogs:

Forward

Yale's senior forwards bring a host of different skills to the position. Alyssa Jethani has the potential to contribute offensively after being limited by injuries throughout her career. On the field and off, her communication skills and leadership make her an integral part of the team. Laura Pierce, who played midfield last year and moves to forward this year, helps set the tone for the rest of the team with her exceptional work ethic. Jayna Whitcher has tremendous stick skills and is as dangerous as any Bulldog in the circle.

If the NCAA had a most improved player award, junior forward Ashley McCauley would have been a prime candidate for it last year. McCauley, who had one assist as a freshman, asserted herself as a true scoring threat by racking up 15 goals and five assists in 2007. That was the second biggest season-to-season goal and point total improvement in Yale field hockey history, and it helped earn her second team All-Ivy League recognition. McCauley led the league in goals and points; she was second in the NCAA in goals per game and sixth in points per game. Classmate Lesley Kiger also made a big move up the depth chart last year, playing in 12 games and earning her first career start. She is capable of playing midfield in addition to forward.

Johna Paolino, the lone sophomore forward on the team, brings vision and awareness to the position. The freshman class includes just one pure forward, Mia Rosati (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.), but she features impressive credentials. Rosati was an All-State selection for Gwynedd Mercy Academy last year and is a five-time USFHA Futures participant.

Midfield

The Bulldogs look to senior Ali Rotondo to provide leadership for the midfield group and the team as a whole. Elected captain by her teammates, Rotondo is a talented player with strong fundamentals and athleticism. She has missed just five games in her career, and started all 17 last year.

Junior Katie Cantore is a major factor at both ends of the field. Her ability to generate attack while also providing great defense is not always reflected in the stats, but the opposing Ivy League coaches recognized the impact she has by voting her honorable mention All-Ivy last season.

Sophomore Marissa Waldemore is another player whose contributions often fly under the radar. She stepped into a role in Yale's backfield last year and showed uncommon poise, starting all 17 games and contributing a team-high three defensive saves. The Bulldogs would like to see her playing midfield this year but know that she can contribute wherever her skills are needed most.

The freshman class is deep in midfielders, with as many as four possibly seeing time at the position. Kirsten Krebs (Selinsgrove, Pa.), who could also play forward, was the PIAA District 4 Outstanding Female Athlete last year and has been part of USA Field Hockey's Futures program for five years. Dinah Landshut (Hamburg, Germany) brings exceptional bloodlines to the team -- her older brother and older sister have both played for the German National Team. Landshut, who won a German Championship with Club an der Alster, can play forward as well. Versatile Chelsey Locarno (Boston, Mass.) was a two-time first team All-ISL pick at Milton Academy. Taylor Sankovich (Short Hills, N.J.), who could also play back, was first team all-state, all-conference and all-county at The Pingry School -- the same program that produced Waldemore -- last year.

Backfield

With no senior backs, two juniors figure to be key contributors in the Bulldog backfield this year. Stephanie Colantonio's contributions to the team go well beyond the playing field, as evidenced by her receiving the team's Coaches Award last year and Senior Award as a freshman. In addition to her work ethic and team-first attitude, Colantonio brings athleticism and solid tackling skills to the backfield. Classmate Julia Weiser is a natural leader and a calming presence at this crucial position. She also has the potential to contribute offensively, hitting on Yale's attack penalty corners.

Sophomore Erica Cullum got her feet wet last season, appearing in five games, and is capable of contributing more this year with her solid defense and strong tackling skills. Classmate Vicki Gordon battled injuries but showed plenty of athleticism and potential when she was on the field. Her ability to pass and hit with power and accuracy should make her a factor in Yale's ability to outlet.

Freshman Erin Carter (Perkiomenville, Pa.) is capable of stepping in right away, as she was first team PIAA All-State last year and has been a USFHA Futures participant.

Goalkeeper

While her classmate McCauley was having a breakout campaign on offense last year, junior Charlotte Goins enjoyed a similar surge at the other end of the field. After appearing in just four games as a freshman, Goins played every minute of every game in the cage last season. At one point she had a streak of 182:06 without allowing a goal, and by the end of the year she was third in the NCAA in save percentage (.804) and fifth in saves per game (8.71). Goins led the Ivy League in saves with 148 -- 60 more than the second-place finisher -- and earned second team All-Ivy recognition. The Bulldogs look forward to two more seasons with her athleticism anchoring the defense.

Sophomore Katie Bolling, who earned the team's Senior Award for her contributions last year, has made strides in her development and gives the Bulldogs another solid option in goal. Freshman Courtney Engle (Littleton, Colo.) will be a valuable addition by giving Yale further depth at this all-important position.

Schedule

Yale's schedule provides a number of challenges, including a pair of games against Final Four teams from a year ago (North Carolina and UConn). Other non-league opponents include local rivals Fairfield, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart; Big East powers Providence and Syracuse; and Hofstra, Holy Cross and Lock Haven. The seven-game Ivy League schedule begins Sept. 20 at archrival Harvard. The Bulldogs host Columbia, Penn and Princeton while taking road trips to Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth and Harvard.

"I believe exceptional student-athletes come to Yale to be challenged both in the classroom and on the field," said Stuper. "The 2008 schedule was designed with this in mind. We will use our non-conference schedule, including Providence, UConn, Hofstra, Syracuse, UNC and Lock Haven, as well as our local rivals Fairfield, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart and Holy Cross, to prepare ourselves for a run at the Ivy League title."

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

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