LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates field hockey team is returning nearly every player from the 2016 team that produced the program's best record in 17 years. The natural conclusion is that the team is hungry for even better things in 2017, and that is indeed the case.
So hungry are these Bobcats to continue winning that to a player, each team member worked her tail off to get better as individual players and as teammates. Fifth-year head coach Danielle Ryder raves about how evident it is that, working out together without coaches' supervision since last season, the team has continued to congeal into a close-knit group while skills have improved as well.
"They've worked really hard over the past 6-7 months, and it's really apparent," Ryder said. "Not only is everyone back, but they all took a huge step forward together, too."
Bates' opening weekend of play appears to present a great early test. Saturday at noon they play at NESCAC opponent and No. 15 nationally ranked Hamilton in Clinton, New York. They'll stay at Hamilton to face No. 12 Montclair State in a non-conference game on Sunday at 1pm.
The schedule won't let up for Bates' home opener, Wednesday Sept. 13 against No. 8 Bowdoin.
Ryder and the Bobcats, however, clearly feel up to the challenge. Their preseason scrimmage against No. 2 Tufts went as well as Ryder could have hoped. "They just had really good execution, from fundamentals to some of advanced skills we've been talking about this preseason," she said. "They executed well from the back line forward, and it was a really well-played, high-energy game. So it was a great start."
The team projects to be stronger than ever in front, where last year's three sophomore starting forwards are ready to begin the second half of their careers. All-Region selection Taylor Lough (Little Compton, R.I.) already has 10 goals and seven assists in her career thus far, while Jessie Moriarty (Springfield, Mass.) and Adah Lindquist (Wayne, Pa.) have recorded a combined 16 goals and seven assists thus far. Promising first-years Lily Nygren (Scarborough, Maine) and Bridget Tweedie (Brownfield, Maine) join an already deep, fleet-footed unit supported by sophomores Isa Garcia-Moreno (Baltimore, Md.) and Ally Leahy (Cohasset, Mass.), who combined for an additional 18 points as first-years.
Bates' midfielders and inners present an equally potent and veteran unit ready for a big year. Junior Emma Patterson (Denver, Colo.) and seniors Lauren Foster (Pawling, N.Y.) and Sydney Beres (New York, N.Y.) have a year of effective play at inner under their belts, while at midfield, senior Caroline O'Reilly (Longmeadow, Mass.), junior Shelbie McCormack (Tyngsborough, Mass.) had outstanding 2016 seasons along with sophomores Alexa Jurgeleit (Barrington, R.I.) and Grace Fitzgerald (Larchmont, N.Y.).
With former assistant coach Katie Fost landing a head coaching job at York College, Ryder has added two defensive-minded new assistants in former Siena player Katherine Bowie and former Saint Anselm player Jen Brown. Bowie and Brown's hirings underscore Bates' commitment to defense as the team's foundation. On the field, senior Samantha Reiss (New Haven, Vt.), junior Caroline Barnes (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), sophomore Abigail Ford (Wells, Maine), junior goalie Adelae Durand (Cumberland, R.I.) and sophomore goalie Alyssa Souza (Scarborough, Maine) will guard Bates' goal with first-year Meaghan Waldron (Darien, Conn.).