Last season, William and Mary field hockey finished 3-13, totaling a win percentage of .188. However, the team played half of their games against ranked teams. So far this season, the team is 2-0, including an overtime victory over no. 19 Old Dominion.
“I was talking to somebody not in our program who was impressed by how many close games we had against some very tough opponents,” head coach Tess Ellis said.
Ellis explained the importance of those match-ups in building the team’s confidence.
“We now realize we can compete with those teams, and I think the scrimmages that we have had recently give it that stamp of approval, that validate how hard we have worked the last two years to bring the senior class to this level,” Ellis said.
Senior Ireland Miller, a defender for the Tribe, agreed with Coach Ellis’ sentiment.
“I don’t think we can look at where we are now without acknowledging last fall,” Miller said. “We look back on last season in a neutral way. Not a bad season, just another season.”
The Tribe lost their first six starts before defeating Hofstra in their first conference match-up of the season. The Tribe ended the season on a five-game losing streak, including a 1-3 loss to Delaware in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association Championship.
This summer, the Tribe finished fourth in the CAA preseason poll. At the start of each season, CAA coaches rank the top teams in the conference. Delaware claimed the top spot, ahead of Northeastern and Monmouth. The Tribe will return eight players who started at least 14 games last season, boosting their performance in the preseason poll.
According to Ellis, the team’s main goal during the preseason has been improving with every practice.
“We know there will be games that we have to talk about other teams, but the big thing is we are getting stronger and that we can bring the ball out of the backfield against any system,” Ellis said.
Ellis emphasized the team’s effort to improve scoring opportunities and put more shots on goal.
“We changed our system a bit to have more numbers in the backfield and help get the ball out quicker,” Ellis said.
Last month, senior Tabby Billingham and sophomore Pyper Friedman were named to the 2022 Preseason All-CAA Field Hockey Team. Last season, Billingham made the All-CAA Second Team for the second consecutive year after tallying three assists. Billingham’s 40 career starts with the Tribe have all been in the defensive backfield.
Friedman, who played all 16 games of her freshman season in the midfield, was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team last season. She won CAA Rookie of the Week last year after scoring a critical goal during a shootout victory over Hofstra.
This past June, Friedman traveled to Dublin, Ireland to play for the U-21 Women’s National Team in the Uniphar 5-Nations Tournament. In July, USA Field Hockey selected her to compete in the 2022 Senior Nexus Championship at the Virginia Beach Training Center. Junior midfielder Jayden Moon participated in the NXC, as well.
Later in the month, Friedman was named to the 2023 U-21 and Development Squad Selection Camp. The event, which will take place this upcoming December or January, helps coaches evaluate players for the 2023 U-21 and Development Squad.
The Tribe begin their season with three home games at Busch Field, before starting a four game road trip to powerhouses including Duke and James Madison. The team will travel to Monmouth for its first conference matchup on Sept. 30, then begin a five game tour against CAA rivals on Oct. 7.
The Tribe will again play a difficult non-conference schedule, with six of its 11 opponents ranked in the coaches’ preseason top 25.
“Every CAA game is an exciting one for us to play because it is leading up to the semifinals and the championships for the conference,” Miller added.
Heading into her final season, Miller explained her goals for the year.
“We’ve been manifesting a CAA win since spring,” she said. “We have a date written down of where we sat down as a team and we said, ‘today was the day we decided we are going to win.”
“I think we put in so much work in the spring as a team to all be committed to the same goal, and we are all on the same page. So, as a team, we do not want to regret a single thing, be proud of the journey that we have made, and hopefully win a ring in the process.”
The CAA Championships are currently scheduled for the first week of November.