Familiarity has not necessarily been a benefit to the College in recent seasons. Two years in a row, the squad has seen its NCAA tournament hopes come to an end on its own Albert-Daly Field, falling short in successive CAA tournaments that it hosted as the conference’s top seed.
This season, no. 20 William and Mary believes that it can finally clear that hurdle — emerge from the CAA postseason intact and catapult itself into the NCAA tournament.
The College returns nine starters and all six of its leading scorers from a team that captured a CAA regular season title last spring. This year, the Tribe will attempt to utilize its depth and experience to navigate a challenging nonconference schedule and reach the next level of postseason play.
“We are looking to improve on the last two seasons,” Head Coach Christine Halfpenny said. “We are really excited. We think we have a schedule that gives us a lot of opportunities to prove to ourselves that we can compete in the top 20 consistently game by game. I’m really excited; obviously we return a ton of [players] but I like the depth that we have. Starting with all of our returners and going all the way to our freshmen, we have a lot to choose from.”
Offensively, the College will look to follow up the successes of a 2009 squad that set program records in goals and points. The Tribe will be led by junior attacker Ashley Holofcener, a preseason All-CAA honoree and All-American candidate. Holofcener was the College’s leading scorer last season, amassing 64 points on 34 goals and 30 assists.
The Tribe will also feature a strong, athletic defense led by junior Sarah Jonson. A 2009 All-American, Jonson ranked sixth nationally and first in the CAA in caused turnovers. For the third straight year, the backline will be anchored by junior goalkeeper Emily Geary, who will attempt to continue to her superb work between the pipes.
Although the College boasts both a high-scoring attack and a solid defense, the core of the team lies in the midfield, which is headlined by junior Grace Golden. A 2009 All-CAA selection, Golden believes that this year’s squad has a chance to accomplish something special.
“First and foremost, we want to win the CAA tournament,” Golden said. “To win two straight CAA regular season titles, and then not win the tournament is kind of disappointing. So this year we want to win the CAA tournament and then go deep in the NCAA tournament.”
To facilitate that goal, Halfpenny has arranged a brutally difficult schedule this spring. The College will open against no. 16 Ohio State this Sunday at Busch Field at 1 p.m. Then, matchups against no. 5 Duke and no. 8 Virginia loom over the following three games. No. 17 Towson and no. 19 James Madison will await in CAA play.
Key contributor: Grace Golden
In order for the Tribe to finally progress into the NCAA tournament, junior midfielder Grace Golden will need to be on top of her game. Luckily for her teammates, Golden’s game is quite formidable. Last season, the junior established herself as one of the nation’s top midfielders, leading the Tribe with 44 goals, good for 2.6 per game. Golden’s list of accolades is lengthy; she was named a Tewaaraton Trophy Watch List honoree , a 2009 All-South Region Second Team selection, and a 2010 All-CAA Preseason nominee. And her success is critical to the Tribe’s chances. In 2009, Golden scored in all but five of the College’s matches, making 52 percent of her shots from the field.
But an equally important contribution lies in Golden’s leadership of a deep Tribe midfield.
“We are bringing back a lot of speed, and we are definitely utilizing it in the midfield, and looking for each other more,” Golden said. “Additionally, on defense we are planning on shutting people down and working together as a team, just like we did last year.”