August 25 – TOWSON, Md. – Riding the momentum of a 2015 season which saw the most wins since 1995, the Goucher College field hockey team, and fifth-year head coach Megan Williams, will look to an experienced group of athletes to push toward a Landmark Conference title.
The Gophers have been trending upward over the past two seasons, earning back-to-back winning marks for the first time since the Landmark Conference was formed.
Goucher produced a 10-win season in '15, but fell shy of their goals in conference play, producing a 2-5 record, including a pair of Landmark games that were decided by one goal.
"One of the biggest changes for this years' team will be the fact that we are no longer considered young," commented Williams. "We have a lot of veteran leadership available at every position and we have a talented array of athletes that have gleaned conference experience.
"The reality that our athletes learned from last season is that we can compete with any team in the conference. However, we need to produce a full, 70-minute performance in order to get the results that we desire."
The Gophers return one of their most talented teams in recent memory as Goucher sees nine starters come back into the fray for the 2016 campaign. 12 of the team's 15 top point scorers return to the roster for the '16 season, including two-time First-Team All-Landmark selection, senior Lizzie Barminski.
"Lizzie has been a great on-field leader for us," remarked Williams of her senior midfielder. "She has an extremely high hockey IQ that helps enhance our game at every level.
"She not only is good at reading defenses on the offensive side, but she is able to help guide the team on defensive as well. Her intelligence on the field really helps us in all facets of the game."
Last season, Barminski earned her second-straight first-team selection, ranking fifth in the Landmark in total goals (12), and leading the team in points with 28. She scored a goal in eight-different games, while posting three multi-goal performances.
Barmiski, however, is just one of three returning Gophers that cracked the 20-point plateau in 2015 as Goucher returns a majority of their offensive firepower from a team that led the Landmark in goals per game.
"We have a great reliance on our fitness and our speed," remarked Williams of her offense. "We like to spread the ball around and attack with the full team.
"We are really excited to see so many goal scorers, as well as the wealth of knowledge that they bring, return to the field."
Top returning scorers include sophomore Jackie Juarez and senior Annie Carter. Juarez ranked second on the team in total points as a freshman last season, tallying 21 (seven goals, seven assists), while Carter posted 20 total points and ranked second on the team in goals scored (eight).
"The Biggest thing we expect from our midfielders is great communication," remarked Williams. "We feel that the game is won and lost in the middle of the field, so it is important that our midfielders control possessions and keep the field organized."
At the forward position, senior Rachel Crain and sophomore Maya Belin will look to improve upon solid numbers from last season. Both players posted nine total points, finishing with four goals and one assist, each.
"Belin might be one of the fastest players that I have ever seen," stated Williams about her sophomore. "We expect her to continue her dynamic play throughout her sophomore season and beyond.
"Additionally, we want dynamic play from all of our forwards. We want to be able to control the tempo and pace, which will ultimately help us succeed on the offensive end."
A veteran defense will help bolster the back end for Goucher as they replace goalkeeper Demie Huffman who started 14 games last season.
Second-Team All-Landmark selection, senior Danielle Hallacker will pace the defense, as well as senior Sarah Cost, juniors Erin Carrigan, Sarah Shklanko and Emily Jewell, and sophomores Sam Klock and Kayla York.
"Dani has really grown in her command of the field," remarked Williams of Hallacker. "She brings that calming presence to the back line and helps everyone with their positioning.
"Having all of our starters return to the defensive front is going to give us a bit more peace of mind," said Williams. "Their job will be to protect whoever we start in net, and to keep her out of dangerous situations."
Along with the strength of the returning players, the future also continues to look bright as Coach Williams welcomes in a new freshman class.
"We are very excited about the incoming freshman class," remarked Williams of the newcomers. "The talent and strength of the new group is really going to help bolster our roster. We could see a few of them step into key positions early in the season."
The Gopher field hockey program will open its season on Thursday, September 1 as they play host to Neumann College at 4 p.m. Goucher will then take to the road for games against Christopher Newport (Sept. 3), Randolph-Macon (Sept. 5) and Ferrum (Sept. 10).
Goucher will then open the Landmark Conference season on Saturday, September 24, hosting Juniata College.
"We put together a tough schedule this season in order to test ourselves early," stated Williams. "In order for us to get to that next level we need to challenge the tougher teams and compete to the best of our ability.
"Everything that we are planning and implementing is in order for us to reach the Landmark playoffs. We are no longer satisfied with just reaching a winning record. Instead, we want to reach the pinnacle of the conference and continue to strive toward higher goals."