Down 2-0 at the half of the Tribe’s first home game against Rutgers Saturday afternoon, College Head Coach Peel Hawthorne wasn’t worried. She knew her team had outplayed its opponent and simply needed to be persistent and play disciplined.
“When they focus on staying with the game plan, the score takes care of itself,” Hawthorne said.
And that’s exactly what happened. The Tribe came back to notch a dramatic 5-4 overtime win in which junior midfielder Erica Eng recorded the College’s first hat trick since 2003.
In its first four games, the College (3-1) has shown off what it considers to be a quicker and more aggressive offense. After a loss to James Madison in the semifinals of the CAA tournament last year, the Tribe is looking to developing this season.
“We have really improved in all angles of the field,” senior goalkeeper Carrie Thompson said. “We have more speed and skill all around. The midfielders have great vision and creativity.”
The team returns eight of its top 10 scorers from a squad that finished 8-13 (4-4 CAA) last year. The team was ranked fourth by the coaches of the CAA in the preseason poll — the same spot it finished last year. The athletes acknowledge this will not be easy, but this year they want more than just an appearance in the CAA tournament.
“We can definitely do better,” senior midfielder Wesley Drew said. “We are not a young team anymore. We know how to play, now we just have to execute.”
However, execution strategies have been adjusted to accommodate recent rule changes which now allow play to continue nearly instantly after a whistle has been blown — an area the College hopes show off its off-season conditioning and up-tempo game.
Inversely, the speed of the game may be slowed a newly resurfaced Busch Field, which now uses water cannons to soak the field and help slow the dimpled ball.
“It allows the ball to settle, helps goalkeepers time their slides and improves playability,” Hawthorne said. “It is a little bit slick.”
The Tribe faces a tough schedule in which they must face the top three CAA powerhouse schools — Drexel, James Madison and Old Dominion — in the final five weeks of the season.
“We try to take it one game at a time,” Hawthorne said. “Every game is important and should be treated that way.”
The Tribe travels to Princeton, N.J. tomorrow to take on the Tigers and returns home Thursday to take on Virginia at Busch Field.
Senior spotlight: Wesley Drew
Last season she was named first-team All-CAA and VaSID all-state. She won the W&M President’s Award for Field Hockey and set a record by starting in 40 consecutive games. Despite these prestigious accomplishments, senior midfielder Wesley Drew is only concerned with finishing her senior year with no regrets.
A field hockey player since fifth grade, the Virginia Beach, Va. native heard about the Tribe by attending field hockey camps on campus.
“I have been coming to camps here since middle school,” Drew said. “I knew the coach and liked the program.”
She praises her team’s effort as “relentless” and appreciates Hawthorne for her extensive knowledge and dedication.
When asked what game this fall she was looking forward to most, Drew said:
“I want to beat JMU more than anything. Also ODU, but I guess I have to just pick one.”