William and Mary field hockey was picked to win the Colonial Athletic Association this season, and for good reason. The Tribe won the conference last year and advanced through the opening round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament. Senior midfielder Christie van de Kamp was voted the conference preseason player of the year while the College returned five additional all-CAA players from last season.
But so far this season, the Tribe has not been playing like a conference favorite. Coming out of the gate, it lost four out of five, with the lone win being over Long Island.
The good news is that part of the Tribe’s losing streak can be attributed to a tough schedule. The Tribe opened its season vs. No. 3 Duke and then, two weeks later, took on top-ranked North Carolina in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament loss. The Tribe also lost to Old Dominion, which then went on to be ranked No. 22 the following week.
The bad news is that the Tribe’s offense has struggled to find its footing through the early part of the season. Through the first six games of the season, the Tribe has averaged just one goal per game, compared to the two-point-seven goals it scored each game on average last year. The lack of a potent attack has already bit the Tribe, which lost a 1-0 decision against Virginia Commonwealth in penalty strokes, as no regulation goals were scored.
Van de Kamp and senior forward Woodard Hooper have scored all but one of the Tribe’s goals so far this year. That is not sustainable if the Tribe really does want to compete for the CAA this season.
The Tribe has a perfect chance to turn things around, though. Sunday, the Tribe notched a 3-1 victory over Monmouth, the team it beat in its NCAA Tournament win last season. That encouraging win came against a Hawks squad that had won five of its first seven games, including two wins and an overtime loss against CAA foes.
Now, the Tribe has five straight contests at home, including two against conference rivals James Madison and Hofstra. If the College can win three or four out of those five games by using its home field advantage, it will be well on its way to another stellar campaign.
Even if head coach Tess Ellis’ team takes advantage of a long home stand, there is still a team lurking: ninth-ranked Delaware. The Tribe may have been picked to win the CAA before the season, but the Blue Hens have talent and a championship pedigree. Before the Tribe took the conference tournament crown last season, the Blue Hens had won the CAA five consecutive years and brought home the NCAA title in 2016.
While a decisive loss to St. Joseph’s on Friday means that Delaware is probably not the ninth-best team in the nation, the Blue Hens are still good. Like last year, the CAA will probably be decided between Williamsburg and Newark, Delaware.
There’s still a little over five weeks until these two teams clash in the second-to-last regular season game. But the importance of the match will be decided by how the College performs in the 10 games prior: an offensive resurgence and solid play in-conference could mean the game decides the No. 1 seed in the CAA Tournament. If the Tribe’s sluggish scoring continues, though, the path to a second matchup with Delaware in the conference championship game might be that much harder.