SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. – The New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) has released its field hockey preseason coaches poll and Mount Holyoke College was picked to finish first. The Lyons who are the defending conference champions, received four first place votes.
In addition to MHC, Babson was ranked second, while Wellesley rounded out the top three. MIT was listed fourth, followed by Smith, Springfield, Wheaton, WPI, and Clark.
MHC posted a record of 15-7 in 2015, going 5-3 in NEWMAC play. The Lyons returned to the conference tournament for the 17th straight season, capping the year with the programs third NEWMAC Tournament title. It also marked the Lyons third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Mount Holyoke battled its way into the playoffs, posting wins in seven of its last eight games to end 2015 and secure a conference birth. Seeded fifth overall, MHC defeated fourth-seeded MIT, and top-seeded Babson to make it to the conference championship for the third straight season.
The Lyons faced a familiar foe in the title game squaring off against second-seeded Wellesley, who had beaten MHC by a 2-1 margin in overtime earlier in the year. Locked in a 1-1 battle through overtime, the two teams squared off in a shootout. Goalie Liz DiCesare (Westford, Mass./Bishop Guertin) stopped all four of Wellesley's shots, and tallies from forwards Colby Newsham (Harvard, mass./Bromfield School) and forward Charlotte Wagner (West Chester, Pa./Westtown School) gave MHC the victory.
Mount Holyoke looks to add to its championship totals in 2016 with 18 returners from last year's squad, including seven of the top 10 scorers from 2015. The Lyons also welcome six newcomers to this year's roster.
Offensively, MHC will look to a number of players to lead the way once again, including Wagner. The NEWMAC statistical leader in goals (19), points (50) and shots (104) during the 2015 campaign, she also ranked second in the conference in assists (12) and added five game-winning goals. She was an NFHCA All-New England East Region Second Team honoree last season.
Additionally, the Lyons bring back junior forward Sophie Perekslis (Millerton, N.Y./Berkshire School), who posted 15 goals with three assists for 33 points in 2015. MHC will also return sophomore midfielders Kristina Ramsden (Florence, Mass./Bromfield School) and Colby Newsham (Harvard, Mass./Bromfield School), who added 17 (6g, 5a) and 15 (6g, 3a) points, respectively last year.
Defensively, Mount Holyoke will see five goalies vying for time in net, led by DiCesare, a NFHCA All-American Third Team honoree. She enters her senior season having garnered NEWMAC Second Team and All-Region First Team honors in 2015. Last season, DiCesare started 20 games, owning a 14-7 record. She posted a 1.32 goals against average with a .847 save percentage. Additionally, she recorded NEWMAC-best 149 saves over 1431:32 minutes of action, while posting seven shutouts. DiCesare also ranked second in the NEWMAC in save percentage and fourth in goals against average last season.
In front of the MHC goal, the Lyons blueline will once again be defended by senior Ruvimbo Mushavi (Harare, Zimbabwe/Arundel School), a 2015 NFHCA All-America Third Team honoree. Last season, Mushavi anchored a defense that allowed just 33 goals and boasted the most defensive saves in the conference with eight. In addition to her All-America honors, she was also named to the NEWMAC All-Conference First Team, as well as the NFHCA All-New England East Region First Team.
Mount Holyoke opens the 2016 season on the road against RPI on Saturday September, 3 at 1:00pm.
Photo courtesy of RJB Sports Photography.