Aug 27, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Following a transitional season, the Villanova field hockey team returns a number of talented, experienced players who will look to get the team back to the BIG EAST Tournament.
"We are excited for the season ahead," said head coach Joanie Molhous. "This is a tight-knit group, and they have already shown us a lot of hard work and a willingness to do what it takes to succeed."
Milhous enters her 19th season with Villanova, and possesses a 182-169 record while at the university. Milhous achieved her 200th career victory as a head coach during the 2012 campaign with a 3-2 win over La Salle. Milhous is joined by assistant coach Kaitlyn Scholl, who is in her fourth season at Villanova.
As the Wildcats began their preseason practices, junior Leah High and senior Keira Zambon were chosen as team captains. High led the team offensively last season, scoring 12 goals and notching 28 points while starting all 19 games. Zambon has played in nearly every game since arriving at Villanova, including all 19 last season. The senior midfielder scored one goal and tallied an assist in 2012.
"Keira and Leah will be two amazing captains for us this season," said Milhous. "They bring hard work, competitiveness and commitment to a whole new level. They are both leaders who lead by example, and their hard work spreads quickly to the rest of the team."
Although the team lost a lot of talent with the departure of five seniors, including 2012 captains Moriah Allen, Kristen Davila and Amy Jackson, the team welcomes three newcomers this season. Freshmen Courtney Devine and Kristen Mericle and sophomore Heather Smillie join the Wildcats and will look to make strong impacts immediately.
"Heather Smillie has really impressed me this preseason," said Milhous. "She has great hands and is very good in front of the goal. Kristen Mericle has a ton of talent and we feel that she has the capability to play anywhere on the field. Courtney Devine is an extremely dedicated player who has a ton of speed, which will be a threat to our opponents."
The Wildcat seniors look to finish their Villanova careers strong. The quintet includes Zambon, forwards Jenna Allen, Celise Feller and Christine Lafferty and goalkeeper Alex Diekmann. Allen, Feller and Lafferty have played important roles as reserve forwards while Diekmann returns as the starting goalkeeper.
Villanova field hockey is coming out of a 7-12 2012 campaign. The Wildcats posted a 4-3 home record and finished fifth in the BIG EAST.
The Wildcats narrowly missed a bid to the BIG EAST Tournament last season. After defeating Georgetown in the team's last conference match of the season, Villanova needed Louisville to lose its last conference match to go into a three-way tie for the last bid. However, Louisville defeated Providence, ending the Wildcats' postseason hopes.
Temple and Old Dominion join the BIG EAST this season in field hockey, and the Wildcats will play each team at Villanova. This is the last season Villanova will play Louisville and Rutgers as conference opponents as each university joins new conferences next year.
The Wildcats return their most successful offensive line of High, junior Jessica Swoboda and sophomore Kayla Kenney. The trio combined for 22 of the team's 30 goals and 20 of the squad's 27 assists.
High is coming off a breakout season, which saw her lead the team in goals (12), points (28) and game-winning goals (3). Kenney had a very successful freshman campaign, where she led the team in assists (9). Swoboda led the team in shots (65) and shots on goal (31) and maintained solid scoring numbers to total 17 points. Allen, Feller and Lafferty also return to the attack. The three provide great leadership and experience, having played in the majority of games last season.
After the departure of Amy Jackson and Olivia Maggitti, the Wildcats will look to maintain production from the midfield. Senior Keira Zambon will lead the group, having started all 19 games last season. Sophomore Carolynn Clark will look to start more, having played in 18 games as a freshman.
The defense welcomes junior Maddy Harding back after missing the 2012 season due to injury. As a freshman in 2011, Harding played in all 19 matches with 18 starts at back. She tallied two goals and an assist, and started all six conference games.
"Maddy is a fantastic player who adds so much to our backfield," said Milhous. "She gives us strength and confidence on our defense and has great game sense." Sophomores Taylor Kidwell and Ashton Whalen will look to be more experienced as defenders. Kidwell played in 15 games last season with eight starts while Whalen came on in four matches.
Senior Alex Diekmann will return as the starter after starting 13 games and playing in all 19 last season. Diekmann posted 112 saves and one shutout, and finished the 2012 campaign with a 7-12 record. The senior Holmdel, N.J., native earned All-BIG EAST Second Team honors.
The Wildcats will face four teams that were ranked in the final Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I poll of the season, three of which played in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Old Dominion and Connecticut each made it to the second round, while North Carolina lost in the title match. Louisville was the remaining ranked team but did not make the tournament.
Villanova opens the regular season at home against Sacred Heart on Aug. 31 before facing the Tar Heels in Newark, Del., Sept. 1. Following a two-game home stand against Rider and Siena on Sept. 4 and 7, the Wildcats travel to Kent, Ohio, to take on Saint Louis and Kent State. The team plays new conference rival Temple at home before going on a three-game road trip against Connecticut, UMass-Lowell and Saint Joseph's.
The Wildcats return home for two conference games against Rutgers and Old Dominion on Oct. 4 and 11 before traveling to Providence. Villanova plays its last home game of the season against Louisville on Oct. 27. The Wildcats finish the season on the road, taking on Penn, Georgetown and Delaware.
The BIG EAST Tournament begins Nov. 8 in Storrs, Conn., while the 2013 NCAA Tournament begins Nov. 22 in Norfolk, Va.