Aug. 13, 2010
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EVANSTON, Ill. -- There's little doubt that if Tracey Fuchs' goal for her first season as head coach at Northwestern was to lay a solid foundation for the future and create a culture of winning, the 2009 campaign was an unbridled success. Now in the first week of their 2010 training camp, Fuchs and her squad are looking to meet even higher expectations they have set for themselves.
"The first year was just a really great year for our program. The players began to trust and believe in our program," Fuchs said. "We changed a lot of things; we changed our philosophies about how we attack and how we play defense and I think you'll see in our second season that we've continued to add to those foundations."
That task is made easier by the fact that Fuchs returns seven starters and a host of key reserves from a team that won more games in 2009 than any Northwestern squad since 1995. Five of the seven returning starters are entering their final season for the 'Cats and boast multiple years of starting experience.
Beginning her second season at NU is forward Chelsea Armstrong, who last year burst on the scene with 22 goals and 12 assists to quickly climb Northwestern's single-season scoring record books. During the offseason, the 2009 first-team All-Big Ten honoree learned she was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA after transferring to NU from the University of Western Australia.
Northwestern opens 2010 by playing eight consecutive road games but closes the fixed portion of its schedule by hosting the annual Big Ten Tournament on its home turf Nov. 4-7. In between, this year's edition of the Wildcats will be aiming to leave their own stamp on a proud tradition of NU field hockey by securing a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Below is a position-by-position breakdown of the players that can make it happen:
If there is one area on the field where Northwestern will be looking for some new faces to step up, it will likely be on the offensive end of the pitch. NU lost a pair of All-Big Ten performers in Courtney Plaster-Strange
and Elizabeth Dobbs
to graduation after the duo combined for 48 points in 2009. Junior Regan Mooney
will be a leading candidate to increase her role after tallying four goals in her sophomore season while incoming freshman Nikki Parsley
, a forward on the United States U-19 national team, may also be counted on to support Armstrong in the front. Junior Kaylee Pohlmeyer
provided some extra scoring from the midfield in 2009, finishing with eight goals.
Fuchs and associate head coach Carla Tagliente made a profound influence on Northwestern's offense in their first season, helping NU score a total of 67 goals that fell just short of the single-season school record of 69.
Northwestern's veteran midfielders should pick up right where they left off a year ago, assuming big roles on both ends of the field. Two-year starter Stacy Uchida is coming back to NU as a fifth-year senior after a stellar junior campaign, and she is rejoined by both Pohlmeyer and another two-year starter in Kendra Sirak. NU may need to replace the ball-winning skills of graduated defensive midfielder Stephanie Fortson -- which may be the perfect role for junior Jaimie Orrico to step into -- but Fuchs will never need to remind Uchida, Sirak or Pohlmeyer to make their way into the attack.
At the start of her first season in Evanston, Fuchs placed an emphasis on developing her defensive backs into players with the same kind of stick-handling skills that her forwards and midfielders possessed. That mentality was constantly on display as NU played an up-tempo style and took advantage of the new restart rules to quickly construct an attack from the back line. Senior Sarah Marcincin, with two seasons of starting experience, will again anchor the central defense spot and will be flanked on one side by returner and classmate Zoe Almquist. After being saddled with injuries in her freshman season, Beth Warner and her aggressive style of play seem poised to assume the majority of the minutes left by the graduated Alyssa Elmy.
Northwestern returns not one but two goalkeepers from a year ago, senior Katie Lynch and sophomore Amanda Wirth, who very nearly split the action all of last season. Both gained big-game experience during the Big Ten season and give NU plenty of security between the pipes.
Northwestern opens its 2010 season on Friday, Aug. 27, at Syracuse. The Wildcats make their home debut at Lakeside Field on Friday, Sept. 17, against Ball State.
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