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 #14 team in the NFHCA DIII Top 20 and were picked by the conference coaches to finish second in the NEWMAC.
It's the highest-ever preseason national ranking for the Lyons, who concluded the 2014 season ranked 13th among the top 20 Division III schools in the nation. Mount Holyoke is coming off its second straight outstanding season, going 17-4 a season ago. The Lyons advanced to the championship game of the NEWMAC Tournament for the third time in the last four years, and went on to earn their fourth bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Lyons earned an At-Large selection – its second straight – advancing to the Second Round for the second consecutive season before falling by a 4-0 margin to the defending national champion and the 2014 National runner-up, Bowdoin College.
The squad finished the season ranked 13th in Division III, and has not fallen out of the national rankings since September 24, 2013. The Lyons also ranked among the nation's best in a number of categories, including 14th in assists per game (2.29), 12th in goals against average (1.03) and 13th in save percentage (.825) and winning percentage (.810). MHC also finished second in the conference in both goals (66), assists (48) and penalty corners (238).
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. The Lyons opened the 2014 campaign in impressive fashion, going 3-0 before suffering a 2-0 loss to then-#12 Amherst. The Lyons rebounded with three more wins before shouldering a narrow 2-1 loss to then-#10 Wellesley. Mount Holyoke was back to its winning ways quickly, as the squad went on a 10-0 run to close out the regular season.
Among the victories in the 10-0 streak included Clark, Smith, Springfield, Babson, WPI, Western New England, MIT, Westfield State and Wheaton. Additionally, the Lyons posted the second NCAA Tournament victory in program history, defeating Husson by a 2-0 margin in a First Round home contest.
Mount Holyoke looks to continue its winning ways in 2015 with 18 returners from last year's squad, including six of the top 10 scorers from 2014. The Lyons also welcome seven newcomers to this year's team.
Offensively, MHC will look to a number of players to spark the program this season. Junior forward Charlotte Wagner (West Chester, Pa./Westtown School) recorded 37 points on 12 goals with 13 assists last season. She was second on the team in both points and assists, while her 12 goals were third most among the team's scorers. Senior captain and midfielder Sarah LaQuerre (Old Orchard Beach, Maine/Cheverus) started 20 games for the Lyons, recording six goals with seven assists for 19 points. She was an All-Region and All-NEWMAC First Team honoree.
Defensively, Mount Holyoke will see four goalies vying for time in net, led by NFHCA All-America Third Team honoree Liz DiCesare (Westford, Mass./Bishop Guertin), who enters her junior season having garnered NEWMAC First Team and All-Region First Team honors a season ago. In 2014, DiCesare started 20 games, owning a 16-4 record. She posted a 1.16 goals against average with a .820 save percentage. Additionally, she made 100 saves over 1329:10 minutes of action while recording four shutouts. DiCesare also ranked second in the NEWMAC in goals against average, save percentage and wins last season.
Mount Holyoke boasts a strong schedule for 2015, which includes two games against teams that were also in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. The Lyons will face Simmons, the GNAC Champions on October 8 (7pm) in South Hadley, and will square off against NEWMAC-rival Wellesley – the preseason favorite in the conference and #10 in the nation – on September 26 (12pm), also at home.
MHC opens its 2015 campaign on Tuesday, September 1 in a 7pm game at Nichols College. The Lyons will host their home opener on Saturday, September 5 against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at 1pm on the Turf Field.