SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. – The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA), along with the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) have announced their preseason polls and the Mount Holyoke College field hockey team is listed on each poll. The Lyons are the #17 team in the NFHCA DIII Top 20 and were picked by the conference coaches to finish second in the NEWMAC.
MHC is coming off a historic season as the squad posted an overall record of 18-3, which was the second-most wins in program history (behind the 2002 team - 19-4) and the program record for fewest losses. The Lyons advanced to the championship game of the NEWMAC Tournament and earned the program's third bid to the NCAA Tournament, getting an At-Large selection. Mount Holyoke advanced to the Second Round before falling by a 1-0 margin in double-overtime to the top-seeded and national #1, Montclair State.
The squad, which finished the season ranked #16 nationally, was also among the nation's best in a number of categories, including second in save percentage (.862) and fifth in both scoring margin (2.85) and winning percentage (.857).
Under the direction of head coach Andy Whitcomb, the Lyons also finished second in the NEWMAC with a 7-1 mark, producing a number of outstanding wins last season. In addition to defeating Rensselaer by a 3-2 margin, MHC also posted a 3-2 overtime win against then 11th-ranked Amherst – the first win for MHC over the Jeffs since the 2003 campaign. Other highlights include a 3-2 win against conference and area-rival Smith, a 6-2 win at then-#19 MIT and the program's first NCAA Tournament victory – a 5-2 decision over Gwynedd Mercy in the First Round.
Mount Holyoke looks to continue its winning ways in 2014 with 21 returners from last year's squad, including eight of the top 10 scorers from 2013. The Lyons also welcome six newcomers to this year's team.
Offensively, MHC will look to senior captain and midfielder Kirsten Kilburn (North Branford, Conn./North Branford) for her dominance in the offensive zone. Last season, Kilburn recorded 19 goals and a team-best 19 assists for 57 points on her way to being named to the NEWMAC All-Conference First Team, the NFHCA All-New England Region First Team and the NFHCA All-America Third Team.
Defensively, Mount Holyoke will continue to be keeper Liz DiCesare (Westford, Mass./Bishop Guertin), who enters her sophomore season having garnered NEWMAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2013. During her rookie campaign, DiCesare posted the conference's best record, going 18-3 overall. She also boasted the top save percentage (.841) in the NEWMAC, while ranking second overall in goals against average (1.14). Among the national leaders, DiCesare was third in save percentage and 16th in goals against average.
Mount Holyoke boasts a strong schedule for 2014, which includes two games against teams that were also in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Lyons will face Castleton State, the NAC Champions on September 13 (12pm) in South Hadley, and will square off against NEWMAC-rival Wellesley – the preseason favorite in the conference and #13 in the nation – on September 27 (12pm) on the road.
MHC opens its 2014 campaign on Friday in a 4pm game against Simmons College. Live stats will be available at http://www.mtholyoke.edu/athletics/livestats/xlive.htm. MHC continues its homestand on Tuesday, September 2, when it welcomes Nichols College for a 7pm game.