Aug. 20, 2012
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - American and Lafayette have formed a competitive rivalry in Patriot League field hockey in recent years, and coaches and sports information directors expect nothing less in 2012 as they put the programs at the top of the preseason poll and gave the Eagles and Leopards the majority of the hardware for the inaugural Field Hockey Preseason All-Patriot League Team announced on Monday.
American just beat out Lafayette for the top spot in the preseason rankings, as the Eagles collected 47 points and seven first-place votes to the Leopards' 45 points and five first-place votes. Bucknell (33), Lehigh (24), Colgate (19) and Holy Cross (12) completed the preseason poll order. American and Lafayette tied for the regular-season title with 4-1 Patriot League records last year, but the Leopards went on to win the Patriot League Championship while the Eagles' eight-year run as titlist came to an end.
The top two also took home the most spots on the inaugural Field Hockey Preseason All-Patriot League Team, including the individual awards. Lafayette senior forward Deanna DiCroce, the reigning Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, claimed the same title for the preseason, while American senior defender Gina Hofmann was named Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Juniors Shelly Montgomery and Alex McMackin joined their teammate Hofmann on the Preseason All-Patriot League squad, while senior Emily Valeo and sophomore Brittany Blass gave the Leopards three selections along with DiCroce. Bucknell placed juniors Rachel Misko and Vickie Resh on the list, while Lehigh had senior Kim Eng and junior Sierra Segear and Holy Cross had junior Lindsay MacPhail make the team.
Ten of the 11 selections earned All-Patriot League status a year ago, with seven of those making the first team. The voting for both the preseason poll and All-Patriot League Team was conducted by field hockey head coaches and sports information directors, who were not permitted to vote for their own team or student-athletes.
American (9-8, 4-1 Patriot League in 2011) had won eight consecutive Patriot League Tournament titles before the run came to an end when the Eagles fell in a semifinal contest at home against Bucknell last season. They will try to get back on top with a team that includes four players that earned All-Patriot League honors last season. Hofmann had three goals last season while earning first-team All-Patriot League and ECAC All-Star recognition, while McMackin (8 g, 2 a), Montgomery (4 g, 4 a) and Jenn Bradley (5 g, 4 a) were among the leaders on offense. Stephanie Burry and Ashley Dalisera both return after splitting the goalkeeping duties last year. The Eagles have won at least a share of the Patriot League regular-season title in each of the last nine seasons, and Steve Jennings has been named Patriot League Coach of the Year eight times in that span.
Lafayette (11-9, 4-1 PL) finally put an end to American's run at the top last year, tying the Eagles for the regular-season crown before beating Lehigh and Bucknell in the Patriot League Tournament for its first title since 2002 and eighth in school history. DiCroce, Valeo and Bliss are all back after earning first-team All-Patriot League honors and a spot on the All-Tournament Team last year. DiCroce led the Patriot League with 14 goals, 10 assists and 38 points last season to earn the Offensive Player of the Year award, and enters her senior season with impressive career totals of 35 goals, 29 assists and 99 points. Bliss had four goals and seven assists and was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year in 2011, while Valeo totaled five goals and eight assists. Jaclyn White also returns after earning second-team All-Patriot League honors a year ago, while Kelsey Mead had eight goals and three assists last season. Jessica Deutsch and Mara Kish both have experience in goal for a Leopards team that is trying to repeat for the first time since winning the first four Patriot League titles from 1990-93.
Bucknell (8-12, 3-2 PL) has been on the cusp of the Patriot League title in recent seasons, as last year's championship-game loss to Lafayette was the second in four years for the Bison. The Bison will try to take the next step with a squad that includes three returning All-Patriot League picks. Misko earned first-team honors with four goals and five assists last year, while Resh made the second team with a goal and an assist. Also making the second team was goalkeeper Erica Perrine, who is back in nets after recording a 2.13 goals against average last season. Katie Durkin and Tayler Siegrist also return after scoring four goals apiece last year.
Lehigh (6-13, 3-2) finished with a winning Patriot League record last year for the first time since 2007, and owed much of that success to the play of Segear. The Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year had 202 saves and a .774 save percentage to help Lehigh into the postseason tournament. She was a first-team All-Patriot League selection along with Eng, the 2009 Patriot League Rookie of the Year who had 10 goals and four assists as a junior. Steph Fratoni and Marie Mignogna are each back after receiving second-team All-Patriot League recognition last season.
Colgate (6-11, 1-4) just missed a Patriot League Tournament berth last year, falling in overtime to Bucknell in the last game of the regular season to finish in fifth place. The Raiders will try to get back to the postseason behind goalkeeper Amanda DiDomizio, who had a 2.47 goals against average and 136 saves while starting all 17 games as a freshman. Top scorer Lauren Dittman (7 g, 2 a) is also back along with Halle Biggar and Olivia Nabhan, who each had five goals last season.
Holy Cross (1-17, 0-5) aims for its first postseason berth since 2006. MacPhail will lead the way after playing just two games last season following a second-team All-Patriot League campaign in 2010. Jillian Caffrey and Megan Bourne each had a pair of goals last season, while Kat Matchett saw the majority of action in goal.
The field hockey season opens Friday, and every team will be in action on the first weekend. Patriot League play begins on Sept. 29 and continues through Oct. 27. The top four teams in the final regular-season standings will compete in the Patriot League Tournament at the site of the highest-seeded team on Nov. 2-3. For the full composite schedule of all six Patriot League teams, go here
Patriot League Field Hockey Preseason Poll
1. American (7 first-place votes) 47 points
2. Lafayette (5) 45
3. Bucknell 33
4. Lehigh 24
5. Colgate 19
6. Holy Cross 12
Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Deanna DiCroce, Lafayette (Sr., F)
Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Gina Hofmann, American (Sr., D)
Field Hockey Preseason All-Patriot League Team
Gina Hofmann, American (Sr., D)
Alex McMackin, American (Jr., F)
Shelly Montgomery, American (Jr., M)
Rachel Misko, Bucknell (Jr., F)
Vickie Resh, Bucknell (Jr., M)
Lindsay MacPhail, Holy Cross (Jr., M/D)
Brittany Blass, Lafayette (So., M)
Deanna DiCroce, Lafayette (Sr., F)
Emily Valeo, Lafayette (Sr., M/D)
Kim Eng, Lehigh (Sr., F)
Sierra Segear, Lehigh (Jr., GK)