Field hockey preview: Bobcats look to take next step in loaded NESCAC

Second team All-NESCAC selection Taylor Lough leads the Bates field hockey team into the 2018 season. (File photo by Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- The Bates field hockey team finished the regular season last year ranked 20th in the nation. But they were eighth in the NESCAC for the third straight year, good enough for the conference tournament, yet leaving the Bobcats hungry for more. 

The Bobcats' rise in the NESCAC has been clear: from 3-7 in 2015 to 4-6 in 2016 to 5-5 in 2017, just one game out of third place in the conference. Overall, Bates finished 9-7 each of the past two years, the first time the field hockey team has posted back-to-back winning seasons since they posted five straight winning records from 1980-1984.   

Head coach Dani Ryder Kogut enters her sixth season as the head coach of the program. The Bobcats open the year this Saturday with a noon NESCAC home match against the Hamilton College Continentals. 

The Bobcats are led on offense by senior Taylor Lough (Little Compton, R.I.) who scored 10 goals last year, tied for ninth most in the NESCAC, and the most for a Bobcat since Johie Farrar '03 scored 12 in 2001. Lough's 26 points were Bates' most since at least the mid-90's. She also scored three game-winning goals and played a crucial role in one of the most remarkable weeks in program history when the Bobcats beat No. 2 nationally ranked Babson, No. 5 Tufts and No. 6 Amherst over the course of six days, earning NESCAC Player of the Week honors as Bates entered the national rankings for the first time in more than a decade at No. 20. Lough was a first team All-New England West Region and second team All-NESCAC selection in 2017. 

"Taylor brings her own spin to the game and each year she comes back with something new, which is great to see," senior captain Shelbie McCormack (Tyngsborough, Mass.) said. "To have her up in the forward line, leading other forwards in terms of how to communicate, what skills to use, and pulling the inner field hockey player out of everyone, really builds our confidence." 

Lough is joined on the forward line by junior Isa Garcia-Moreno (Baltimore, Md.), who sports five career goals entering the season after serving as a key player off the bench the past two years. Expect sophomores Bridget Tweedie (Brownfield, Maine) and Lily Nygren (Scarborough, Maine) to see more action after getting their feet wet as first-years in 2017, with Nygren scoring her first career goal and Tweedie earning six starts. 

McCormack and junior captain Grace Fitzgerald (Larchmont, N.Y.) anchor the Bates midfield. McCormack focuses on defense and Fitzgerald was an offense spark last year, finishing with two goals (including the game-winner against No. 2 Babson) and three assists. 

"Shelbie and Grace are really level-headed leaders," Ryder said. "Neither one is going to give us a gut reaction without thinking about it first, and that goes toward how they treat their teammates as well. They are able to see every side (of a situation) and that's crucial." 

Senior Emma Patterson (Denver, Colo.) scored two goals and dished out an assist from her "inner' position in the midfield last year. She returns along with fellow inner junior Victoria McGee (Scarsdale, N.Y.) who tallied two goals and two assists. 

The Bates defense has recorded five shutouts each of the past two years, and junior Alexa Jurgeleit (Barrington, R.I.) is a big reason why, having started all 32 games since she first stepped foot on campus. She was the ECAC Division III North Defensive Player of the Week after spearheading Bates' massive defensive effort in the Bobcats' "week to remember", as Bates allowed only seven shots on goal and a single goal over three games, all wins over nationally ranked opponents Babson, Tufts and Amherst. Sophomore Meaghan Waldron (Darien, Conn.) earned four starts as a first-year and will once again work alongside Jurgeleit in the backfield. 

If an opponent gets past Jurgeleit and the Bates defense, she will have to contend with senior goalkeeper Adelae Durand (Cumberland, R.I.) who is entering her third year as the starter in the cage. Last year, she surrendered just 22 goals in 887:42 minutes played. 

Bates welcomes a huge first-year class, with eight newcomers to the team. The Bobcats have four seniors, six juniors and four sophomores. 

"We're all on the same page," McCormack said. "With the new structure we started midway through last season, that's what we're starting with this year. So that's a game-changer."