Gophers Expect Underclassmen to Accelerate Rebuild Process

Gophers Expect Underclassmen to Accelerate Rebuild Process

2013 FIELD HOCKEY PREVIEW

TOWSON, Md. – There will be several new faces when the Goucher field hockey team takes the field for its first game of the 2013 season on Friday, with freshmen making up nearly half of the 17-player roster. Head coach Megan Williams, however, is excited about her team's potential as the Gophers look to take the next step in their rebuilding process.

"Our freshmen definitely bring a lot to the mix," Williams said. "They're from all over the country, and they bring a variety of experience. We're really excited with what they bring to the table, and we're definitely ready to push the team up a level for the upcoming season."

Goucher begins the year with a road trip to Lexington, Va., where the Gophers will take on Roanoke at 7 p.m. on Friday before facing Washington & Lee at Noon on Sunday.

Last year's leading scorer, junior Justine Ruhlin, headlines the nine returners for Goucher. Ruhlin scored five of the Gophers' 13 goals while also leading the squad with 51 shots. Megan Meluskey and Antonia DiLuca, who each registered two goals in 2012, will also be back, along with 2012 starters Shelby Cross, Emily Gill, Caroline Less and Liz Weiner.

Demie Huffman, who started 10 of Goucher's 16 games in goal last season, will compete with incoming freshman Taylor Striar for the goalkeeping position this year. Defensively, Williams will look to several of her newcomers to replace departed seniors Lindsay Jones and Hannah Philips.

"We have to replace both our center back and our sweeper from last year," she said. "In field hockey, a lot of the communication and vision comes from the back, so those are really important positions on the field. We're excited to see some of our younger players take on these leadership roles."

The Gophers have struggled in recent years, and are coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons, but Williams is pleased with what she has seen so far from her team. She also looks at her squad's youth, with Weiner returning as the Gophers' only senior, as a positive.

"It offers opportunity for anyone to step up as a leader," Williams said. "There's not a hierarchy system in our group. The upperclassmen and underclassmen get along great, and everyone is open to learning from each other."

After their season-opening trip to Lexington, four of Goucher's next six games will be at Beldon Field before beginning play in the always-challenging Landmark Conference, where the Gophers have not earned a win since October, 2010.

"We're really confident that we'll be competitive in our entire schedule this year, which I think is something different than could be said in the past few seasons," Williams said. "We have a lot of goals this year, but one of our biggest is to win a conference game. I think that would definitely be a marker of the upswing that the team is on."

Check out the full 2013 field hockey roster here, while a complete schedule can be viewed here.