A heralded senior class is usually a coach’s godsend. Possessing talent and experience, a good senior class means fewer worries on the field for coaches.
But a heralded senior class portends the end, specifically the end for a squad that has been led by seniors Grace Golden and Sarah Jonson since their freshman season. And William and Mary Head Coach Christine Halfpenny knows that with the end so near, now is the time for the Tribe to take its shot.
“There are overarching goals which would, obviously, be staying in the hunt for a CAA championship this year,” Halfpenny said. “When you made a commitment to come to William and Mary, that is what we are doing, year in and year out. We are searching, hunting and striving to be CAA champions.”
The College returns all but three starters from last year’s squad, including 2010 CAA Co-Defensive Player of the Year Jonson and CAA Co-Preseason Player of the Year Grace Golden.
Golden finished fourth in the country in caused turnovers-per-game last season while leading the Tribe in goals scored (44) and ground balls (56). Jonson, who was an IWLCA All-American second team selection last season, set a school record with 42 caused turnovers last year.
Halfpenny is looking for Golden and Jonson to step up even more in their respective senior seasons.
“I can tell you, for those two players, they would trade in any of those records for a CAA Championship and a berth to the NCAA tournament,” Halfpenny said. “That’s what makes them special … There’s still more for the each of them [though]. I think they can each get better.”
The Tribe will need all the leadership it can get as it takes on some of the best teams in the country this season. After opening the year with a 14-11 defeat at No. 4 Duke, the College will take on No. 2 Northwestern, No. 26 Boston, No. 5 Virginia and No. 16 Penn State in addition to its CAA schedule.
Not only will the College face national runner-ups Northwestern, but it will do so at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas Texas, the home of this year’s Super Bowl.
“Looking at this year’s team, I would never make a schedule or put a team on our schedule that I did not feel like we could compete with or beat,” Halfpenny said. “And we feel like the leadership at the helm this year, and the experience in that senior class, really helps us take on one of the toughest schedules in the country.”
The CAA will also pose a tough test for the Tribe this season, as No. 8 James Madison, No. 12 Towson and No. 17 Hofstra and come into the year ranked in the top 25 nationally.
“I think it will be fun to stay the least,” Halfpenny said. “I think our conference is a battle. Nothing is going to be easy. Just being in the top four in our conference is never easy.”
Halfpenny also returns experienced underclassmen that, due to multiple injuries last season, were forced into action, will provide depth this season.
Still, Halfpenny knows this year’s squad has a chance to be special. And with Golden and Jonson graduating at the end of the year, the head coach does not want to waste that chance.
“I’m actually really confident in our schedule, as long as we take it one game at a time and focus on ourselves,” Halfpenny said. “We’re excited about it, quite honestly. We just have to remain focused on ourselves.”