August 21, 2006

Bulldogs Ready for Challenges of 2006

Aug. 21, 2006

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The pieces started coming together for the Yale field hockey team midway through last season, as the Bulldogs allowed only 14 goals over the final 11 games. Seven of last year's losses were by one goal, so the Bulldogs could make a big move up in the standings with improved offensive punch in 2006. A challenging non-league schedule that includes four nationally ranked teams figures to help Yale get ready for Ivy League play.

"I believe we have the most talented team that Yale has seen in the past decade," said head coach Pam Stuper, who enters her second season as head coach after serving as an assistant for eight seasons. "This team has the experience, ability, athleticism and mentality to have a very successful season."

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

Forwards
Yale has good depth at forward, led by two seniors. Lindsay Collins, the team's leading scorer from a year ago (5-2-12), returns with second team All-Ivy credentials on her resume. Her speed and vision will be a major component of Yale's attack. Allison Spitzer has made tremendous progress since joining the team as a sophomore (she was on the sailing team as a freshman). She could make an impact as a senior after being sidelined with an injury last year.

Junior Harriet Thayer, an honorable mention All-Ivy selection for the last two years, has started all 34 games of her Yale career. She is a key part of Yale's penalty corner units both defensively and offensively and has trained at USA Field Hockey's Elite Performance Training Center for the past two years. Classmate Cat Lindroth is a hard-nosed player who tied Collins for the team lead in goals (five) last year despite playing much of the season with a hand injury.

Sophomore Alyssa Jethani saw limited action last year but has the potential to emerge as a key player. Freshmen Stephanie Colantonio (Watertown, Mass.) and Lesley Kiger (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who joins her sister Lorrie on the Bulldog roster, round out Yale's deep forward corps.

Midfielders
The Bulldogs' developing corps of backs has enabled Stuper to move senior stalwart Heather Orrico up to midfield, where her skills at both ends of the field will be even more of a factor. Orrico, the team captain, has trained at USA Field Hockey's Elite Performance Training Center for the past two years. She was an All-Region selection last year in addition to earning All-Ivy honors. Orrico had two goals and three assists, anchoring the defense and serving as striker on penalty corners. Classmate Rachel Lentz appeared in 16 games last season, earning one start. Her vision and game sense will be key to the Bulldogs' success in the midfield.

Sophomore Ali Rotondo moved into a starting role midway through last year and displayed tremendous potential. Classmate Laura Pierce appeared in two games last season and looks to earn more time this year. Freshman Katie Cantore (Hershey, Pa.), who could also see action at forward, was first team all-state last year.

Backs
Senior Emily Palilonis, entering her third year as a starter, will be counted on to lead Yale defensively. A student of the game, Palilonis picked up her first career goal last year and also made two appearances as a kicking back. Classmate Jenn Slough gives Yale another solid option at back.

Junior Beth Raveche may be on the verge of a breakout campaign. Yale's tallest player at 5'10", she is an imposing sight flying out on defensive penalty corners and also could see time as inserter on offensive penalty corners. Lorrie Kiger hopes her injuries are behind her after being limited to two games last season.

Jayna Whitcher, the lone sophomore back, picked up four games' worth of experience last year. Freshman Julia Weiser (Houston, Texas) was all-conference and All-South Zone last season and will add depth to the backfield.

Goalkeeper
Talented senior Elizabeth Friedlander spent most of the past two seasons splitting time in net with Kate Crandall, who has graduated. Friedlander made dramatic improvements in both her save percentage (.756 from .696) and goals-against average (2.18 from 2.50) last year compared to 2004. She appears ready to shoulder the load in goal while freshman Charlotte Goins (New Bern, N.C.) gets acclimated.

Yale opens the 2006 season against Virginia Commonwealth on Sept. 1. The Bulldogs' non-conference schedule also includes a trip to the Midwest to play at Michigan State, at Northwestern and against Stanford (at Northwestern) Sept. 14-17. Michigan State (No. 16) is one of four teams ranked in the STX/NFHCA preseason poll on tap for Yale. That list also includes UConn (No. 9, Sept. 6), North Carolina (No. 5, Oct. 8) and BU (No. 17, Oct. 15).

"I believe exceptional student-athletes come to Yale to be challenged both in the classroom and on the field," Stuper said. "The 2006 schedule was designed with this in mind. We will use our non-conference schedule, including UConn, Michigan State, Northwestern, UNC and Boston University, to prepare ourselves for a run at the Ivy League title. "

Ivy League play starts on Sept. 9 with defending league champion Princeton, which was among teams also receiving votes in the preseason poll, visiting Johnson Field. The regular season concludes Nov. 4 at Brown.

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

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