Wheaton Field Hockey has had an incredible start to their 2015 season with a 5-1 record, undefeated in their first five competitions up until their most reason contest against nationally ranked Wellesley.
This has been one of the best starts in program history for the Lyons in their third season under head coach Cara Reese. The team had an impressive 10-8 winning record last season but fell short of making the playoffs in 2014. However, the team came out in full force in preparation for their first New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) game against last year’s champions Wellesley this past weekend.
“18 out of our 22 players are returners,” said junior captain Darci Bruce ’17. “I think that helped us with our chemistry and confidence going into the season. We knew we had expectations that we had to reach, which made us work hard to achieve them and I think that’s what made us so successful for the beginning of our season.”
The Lyons began their schedule against Roger Williams where they picked up their third consecutive season opener by a 5-2 score on Nordin Field. Junior Amelia Gage ’17, the team’s current leading scorer with six goals, started the scoring for Wheaton early in the game just one minute into the contest. Four other teammates would later contribute to the scoreboard to win the game by a three-goal margin and clinch their first of five straight victories.
In their next game the team managed to shutout Regis (Mass.) and put four tallies into the net with senior captain Kelsey Harris ’16 leading the offense with two goals. Gage assisted the second goal of the game scored by junior forward Ellen Gulezian ’17. In the second half, Gage would close out the scoring only minutes after the team’s third goal scored by Harris. Sophomore Riley Thompson ’18 and first-year Emily Curren ’19 split time in goal to earn the team’s first shutout of the season.
“This year, our offense has really focused on learning to adapt to defensive pressure, said Harris. “We practice beating our defense one-on-one and then beating the next with a pass. With this mentality we have caught our opponents on their heels creating forward momentum.”
The team would then play two straight games on the road against Anna Maria and Colby-Sawyer. The first of the two road games ended in a thrilling overtime finish after a quiet first half of scoring with just one goal scored on the Lyons in the seventh minute of the competition.
Sophomore Katie Peters ’18 would open up the scoring with an assist from Gage. Anna Maria would quickly respond with a goal right in the next minute. Wheaton was down by one until Gage scored two consecutive unassisted goals to put Wheaton up by one. Anna Maria would respond again with an equalizing goal to tie it up at three goals each. Heading into overtime after the two back and fourth regulation halves, the Lyons defense knew they couldn’t concede furthermore and they’d have to come up big on offense. Harris scored the game-winning goal in the 75th minute of overtime with the assist from Gage to end the game and clinch Wheaton’s third straight victory.
“It’s always a good feeling winning on the road,” said Harris. “Last season we had quite a few overtime winners on the road and it is an exhilarating feeling. We had the mental toughness to finish the game strong and get back on the bus with the job done.”
The Lyons put their fourth contest of the season away early in the game with three straight goals in the first half. Harris netted two and Gage added the third goal that would result in a 3-2 win over the Colby-Sawyer Chargers. Their last game before the conference opener was against Lasell where the Lyons claimed their fifth straight win and extended their undefeated record to 5-0. The team earned their second shutout of the season with Thompson and Curren both clocking minutes in at goal. Peters and classmate Kelsey Buckley ’18 scored two goals each to win the game by four goals with none against.
“These wins gave us a lot of confidence, especially the Lasell game because last year we beat them 4-3 in overtime, whereas this year we beat them 4-0,” said Bruce. “After that game we were really focused on continuing to work hard, knowing we were playing our toughest opponent next.”
In their most recent competition the Lyons traveled to Wellesley to take on potentially their strongest opponent of the season in the reigning NEWMAC champions. In the most recent NCAA National Rankings Wellesley was ranked 10th in the nation in the top-25 poll. The team was also predicted to defend their conference title claiming the top spot in the NEWMAC preseason coaches’ poll.
Wellesley came out strong scoring four consecutive goals with Gage scoring one in the second assisted by Peters. Wellesley is now 5-0 overall this season and continues to be undefeated on their quest to defend their conference title and pursue further glory in the NCAA Tournament after a loss to Salisbury in the third round last season. The Lyons lacked the strong attacking mindset they had in previous competitions but look to improve offensively going forward.
“Our attack can progress through more communication and learning to trust and listen to each other,” said Harris. “We have the tendency to hold on to the ball too long, which creates turnovers. If we listen to each other and see our options sooner, we will be better.”
Despite a loss in the first conference game the team remains hopeful to get results in their upcoming conference games. The Lyons will face up against Simmons midweek and follow with their second conference game against Smith this Saturday on Nordin Field at 1 p.m.