Aug. 24, 2012
WASHINGTON - WASHINGTON - The Georgetown University field hockey team has not featured heavily experienced, senior-laden squads in head coach Tiffany Marsh's six seasons on the Hilltop. That trend will change in 2012, as the Hoyas roster contains 10 seniors, including eight multi-year starters. The squad promises to be Marsh's most experienced and perhaps most talented, as the Hoyas set to open its season as part of a three-team tournament on Saturday afternoon against Appalachian State, before playing host, Davidson on Sunday.
In previous seasons, the Hoyas have had, at most, three seniors on the roster helping guide large groups of underclassmen who have been pressed into action from day one in the difficult BIG EAST. This season, the senior class, who has been the Hoyas most successful since joining the BIG EAST, will allow Marsh to ease the underclassmen into game action, while helping set the culture for the future.
"It's so great having this big group," Marsh said. "Not only have they worked so hard during the last four years, but we haven't had the luxury of having this amount of experience and leadership in my prior years. Now having these 10 seniors along with a big incoming class, they've set the bar for the program. They know the little traditions, they know how we want to act, they know where the program is going and they can pass that down to the younger ones."
In August, Marsh welcomed a talented incoming group, featuring eight freshmen and one sophomore transfer, who have been competing for playing time since the first day of camp, with the 16 returning players from the 2011 team. Though Marsh has not seen a strain in the relationship between of the upperclassmen and newcomers competing for jobs, instead the Hoyas have strong competition at each position, creating depth that she hopes will help the Blue and Gray climb into contention for a spot in the conference tournament.
"The younger class is coming in with a lot of talent and it is really challenging our upperclassmen, but it's a healthy competition with everybody and the level of play is really rising," Marsh said. "I could not be happier with the mix of experience, talent, young and old."
To accompany the larger roster, the team has added to its staff, with Melissa Vassalotti joining to work with the goalies, fresh off winning a National Championship in cage at Maryland. Shannon Goans, a former midfield standout at American, also joins the staff as a volunteer assistant.
"Working with a bigger team there was no better time to bring a bigger staff in," Marsh said. "Melissa graduated in December and is fresh off a national championship and is someone the girls really relate to and really relates to the girls. Also, Shannon played a high level of hockey and just to have a different perspective come helps us reach more of the girls at practice."
The Hoyas offense returns senior captain Annie Wilson, an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection last season, who finished with five goals and one assist, as well as 2010 All-BIG EAST Second Team selection Catherine Shugrue, who has scored 21 goals and 50 points in the last two seasons. Freshman Sarah Butterfield will also find playing time at forward.
"Annie and Catherine are two players that anyone who has played us before remember," Marsh said. "Catherine with her big shot from the corner and Annie because she's feisty and fast and can sneak around everybody and I'm looking forward to seeing big things from them again. I think Sarah is going to have an immediate impact coming in, as well."
Senior Claire Mittermiller returns at center midfield, having played their exclusively during the past two seasons, while Caitlin Hickey played each game at midfield during the 2011 season. Elizabeth Mueller, who started six games on the back line in 2011 will get bumped up to midfield, while freshmen Meghan Murphy, Callie Hiner and Hannah Carey will each contribute to the midfield unit.
"The depth we have all over the field is great, but particularly at the midfield and on the back line," Marsh said. "Claire has developed so much in the last year and a half with her individual skill. We have Caitlin Hickey and we're thinking about moving Elizabeth Mueller up into that role and then we have a ton of freshmen coming in with Meghan Murphy, Callie Hiner and Hannah Carey to fill into those roles."
Senior captain Laura Thistle returns as the team's center back and Katy Wingo, who made three defensive saves last season, solidify the defense, with two players that started each game in 2011. Sophomore Brooke Simone also earned significant playing time as a freshman. Freshmen Louise Chakejian and Emily Weinberg add depth to the back line.
"Laura has really been a wall for us, Katy has been a really strong defender between the midfield and defensive lines and Brooke has played a ton back there," Marsh said. "As far as immediate impact freshman, Weezy (Chakejian) and Emily Weinberg are going to be two that will see a lot of time in the beginning."
In goal, Briana Pereira has played in 45 during her career, starting 40 with 10 wins to her credit and is looking to make her mark during her final season. The Hoyas will also have the services of Emma Hamstra, who transferred from UMass and will compete for playing time with Pereira.
"Briana has really stepped up this summer in terms of her fitness and playing," Marsh said. "She came in this summer in a better place and then Emma played at a competitive program at UMass, so they are really pushing each other."
With depth and experience all over the field, the Hoyas expect to make a leap in the conference and will hope to build on that in seasons to come.
"This is by far the most talented group we've had and not only are we talented, but we have the depth to maintain throughout the season," Marsh said.
"I would like to see us continue to make our mark in the BIG EAST. We're not the one, two or three win team anymore and that mentality is completely gone among our players, that's not something that's acceptable anymore. Everybody is a competitor and anyone can be taken down and if we can keep that mentality I think we'll be in a good place."