Huskies look to build off last season
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 30, 2013 01:08
Between a preseason top five ranking in the Penn Moto/NFHCA Coaches Poll, four returning All-Americans and one of the toughest schedules in the country, it looks like business as usual for head coach Nancy Stevens and UConn field hockey.
The Huskies enter the 2013 season knowing that in order to be the best they have to beat the best, a sentiment reflected in the team’s schedule. UConn’s slate of opponents is littered with national championship contenders, and it is sure to be a tough test of the group’s mettle and skill. In all, the team will face eight teams that are currently ranked in the top 20 in the nation.
But Stevens, a coach entering her 24th season at the helm of UConn field hockey, is certainly not getting ahead of herself.
“The most important game is the one you are playing that day,” Stevens said. “We do not pay any attention to the polls. The games are decided on the field.”
Thankfully, on the field is where the team thrives, and the Huskies look to return a wealth of talent and experience at nearly every position.
Back at forward is senior Marie Elena Bolles, who ended the 2012 season with a slew of accolades including Big East Offensive Player of the Year, first team All-Big East, and third team All-America.
Bolles, the catalyst of the Husky offense, recently returned from a stint with the U.S. Junior World Cup Team, which competed in the 2013 Junior World Cup this summer in Germany.
Also returning are junior forward Chloe Hunnable – a 15 goal-scorer a season ago – and junior midfielder Chrissy Davidson, who tied with Hunnable for the team lead in assists with 11. Hunnable was a first team All-Big East and third team All-America selection last season.
Senior forward Anne Jeute is also back after a 2012 season which saw her redshirt due to a knee injury. Jeute, a second team All-American in 2011, will be looking to return to form after leading the team with 15 goals two seasons ago.
Defensively, UConn allowed an opponent scoring average of just 1.18 goals per game, a primary reason being the stellar play of goaltender Sarah Mansfield. Now a senior, Mansfield – a first team All-American in 2012 – led the Big East in goals against average last season and finished the year with a 19-3 record in 22 starts.
“We always look to our senior All-Americans for leadership and game day performances,” Stevens said. “We have outstanding leadership from our senior class. They know what it takes to win championships.”
And a championship is certainly in the cards for the Huskies this season. UConn was the unanimous pick by Big East coaches to capture the conference championship in 2013, and after a 2012 season which saw the Huskies go 19-3 and advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA National Championship, the team has shown it can handle itself on the national stage.
If Stevens’ squad proves it can overcome the loss of its three starting backs from a season ago, then the team will be as good as it wants to be.
“Right now we are working to establish an identity, which will reveal itself as we face the early challenges on the road,” Stevens said. “The team’s focus has been on poise, preparation, relentlessness and resilience. Those are just words until we meet the challenges facing us in the first three games of the season.”
UConn opens the regular season on Saturday against No. 12 Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.