By Brett Johnson | Herald Reporter
BRISTOL, R.I. — As students return to campus in August, fall athletes have already been on campus for weeks practicing, working out, and preparing for their season. When classes start, so does their season. One of those teams is the Roger Williams University field hockey team, which is looking to get off to a strong and steady start.
The Hawks struggled last year, finishing with a 4-15 record and no trip to the playoffs, but hope to make some adjustments and improve in the upcoming season. Their double-overtime win against Fitchburg State University late in the 2016 season showed a glimmer of hope for this upcoming season.
“We have energy and talent, and I have the confidence that we can compete with any other team in the conference,” senior captain MaryKathryn Slattery said. “I’ve got a pretty good feeling about an underdog season.”
The Hawks were ranked sixth in the Commonwealth Coast Conference Preseason Coaches’ poll, only ahead of Nichols College. The University of New England topped the list by receiving all seven first place votes. The Nor’Easters also were ranked 17th in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division III Top 20 preseason poll. The Hawks fell to UNE both times last season by scores of 6-2 and 6-0. The Hawks compete against the Nor’Easters twice throughout the 2017 season and hope to pull off the upset.
During the offseason, the coaching staff saw a slight change. Tracey Hackley decided to step down as head coach after four seasons as a result of an increased workload, but will remain with the team as the assistant coach. Hackley has been with the field hockey program at RWU since 2011 and helped the team transition in 2013 from club team to varsity team. Hackley is passing the reins to her former assistant coach and now new head coach, Meaghan Farrelly. Farrelly became the assistant coach in 2013 to help grow the new varsity program. The coaching change has already had an impact on this year’s season.
“[The coaching change] has really allowed us more access to resources like game film review time, extra commitment to conditioning, and a coach who has the time for consultations,” Slattery said.
As one of three captains, Slattery is hoping to push the motto, “learn from, then move on.” She mentioned that last year’s disappointing season led to “pretty low morale” which then turned into low energy and poor playing, according to Slattery. She wants to promote the idea of not dwelling on a mistake and letting it affect the next play but learning from that mistake and avoiding making it again.
Senior Juliana Miccile is also expecting the team to have a successful season since the team has been putting in a great amount of hard work and has a newfound enthusiasm. As captain, she plans to support the team while she is both on and off the field as much as she can. She hopes that encouragement can translate into an unstoppable, united team.
This year’s field hockey team is almost completely balanced in regard to upperclassmen and lowerclassmen. There are 11 lowerclassmen and 10 upperclassmen, but according to the players when they are on the field, no age difference is noticeable. All age groups bring a different quality to the field. For example, a freshman brings eagerness and hard work while a senior brings experience and leadership.
The Hawks opened their season on Sept. 1 in Bristol, R.I. against Johnson and Wales University. The Wildcats scored first, but the Hawks were able to tie it up and then take the lead, earning the 2-1 win. Junior forward Lillian McNeil scored the winning goal with less than seven minutes left in the game. It’s the first time since 2014 the Hawks were able to celebrate a win in their season opener.
Roger Williams continues their four-game homestand against Wesleyan University on Tuesday night, against Manhattanville College on Sept. 9, and against Nichols College in their first CCC matchup on Sept. 13. The Hawks were able to defeat the Nichols College Bison twice last season.
The Hawks expect this season to have a drastic turnaround from last season and a much more successful result.
“The other seniors and I are extremely happy that we have a team who is as driven as we are to win this season,” Slattery said.