SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. – The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) has announced its Penn Monto/Division III Coaches Preseason Poll and the Mount Holyoke College field hockey team was selected once again. This is the second recognition of 2016 for the Lyons, who were picked as the team to finish first in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) preseason coaches' poll last week.
In addition to MHC, conference-rival Wellesley College was ranked ninth in the NFHCA Preseason Poll, with Babson College listed 16th. Middlebury College, the 2015 NCAA National Champion, was ranked first overall, followed by Bowdoin, The College of New Jersey, Ursinus and Franklin & Marshall to round out the top five.
This also marks the third straight season the Lyons have entered year among the Top-20 in Division III. Last season, MHC made its highest preseason debut, entering 14th overall, while in 2014, the squad opened the year ranked 17th.
MHC is coming off a 2015 campaign in which it went 15-7 overall. The Lyons posted a 5-3 mark in NEWMAC play, advancing into the conference tournament for the 17th straight season. The squad capped the year with an incredible post-season run, winning the program's third NEWMAC Championship title, while also advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.
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, which is led by 19th-year head coach Andy Whitcomb, 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 season, 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 year.
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 Newsham , 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.
The 20th-ranked Lyons open their 2016 season on Saturday, traveling to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for a 1pm contest.