2005 William and Mary Field Hockey Outlook
- One of the best senior classes in recent memory, coupled with an outstanding incoming freshman class and a solid corps of juniors and sophomores, have the 2005 William and Mary field hockey team expecting to meet and even exceed the standard of excellence set by the program in recent years. In 2004 the Tribe was a perfect 7-0 against Colonial Athletic Association opponents, capturing the first outright regular season league title in school history. The team is on a run of seven consecutive winning seasons against what is always one of the toughest schedules in the nation, winning at least 65 percent of its games in three of the last four seasons. W&M enters the 2005 campaign on a 13-game winning streak in the regular season against conference opponents and has ended the year in third place or higher each of the last seven seasons in the CAA, one of the top three field hockey leagues in the nation.
Leading the way for the Tribe will be a group of five players, who make up what is likely one of the most experienced senior classes in the nation. These five–forward Kelly Giles, midfielder Shannon Karl, and defenders Anna Davis, Diana Esposito and Carly Falgowski–have played in a combined 269 games, including 217 starts, in their careers.
“I think this is one of the strongest senior classes we’ve had in years,” said Tribe head coach Peel Hawthorne, who was named the CAA and state coach of the year last season. “They’re all experienced players and they’ve all been starters for a long time. They play so well together–they know what each other is thinking when they’re out on the field.
“We have a lot of experience in the backfield and I think that’s going to be the key to our success. Our defenders will run the field and set up our attacking plays. We have a finisher in Kelly [Giles] and we have a lot of creativity in the midfield that can help generate the attack as well. But the heart and soul of our team is going to be in the defense.
“The potential of this team is very high,” continued Hawthorne. “The freshmen coming in are capable of impacting the program right away, but some of them might have to wait a while, because they’re coming in to relieve the most experienced players we’ve had in years.”
Without a doubt, most opposing defenses will first look to stop senior Kelly Giles, the 2004 CAA and state of Virginia Player of the Year. The first Tribe player to win either of those awards, Giles led the team and finished third in the CAA with 14 goals and 34 points last season. Five of her goals were game-winners, the most in the conference and tied for third-best in W&M history.
“The more attention Kelly gets, the more she’s having to work for her goals,” said Hawthorne. “She’s got a bull’s-eye on her back now, but she’s responding well to that. She’s looking forward to her senior year and is working hard to arrive in shape and healthy. Kelly’s explosively fast and her stick work just keeps getting better. She’s just a natural–I still feel like she hasn’t scratched the surface of what she’s capable of accomplishing in this sport.”
In addition to Giles, the Tribe also returns junior Gina Cimarelli, who played in all 20 games, including 19 starts. After seeing action in just seven games as a rookie, Cimarelli came on strong last season with seven goals (third on the team), along with the first two assists of her career.
“Next to Kelly, Gina is our most experienced forward,” said Hawthorne. “She has good stick speed and is getting more confident with her shooting. She’s also a very reliable stick-stopper on corners.”
After a strong spring season, junior Maggie Long is moving up to forward from the midfield line, where most of her playing time came last year. Long scored two goals in her 10 games last season.
“Maggie has a good variety of shots and probably has the most powerful shot on the team,” said Hawthorne. “We think forward is where she is going to have the most success in our lineup.”
Also returning at the forward position is a pair of sophomores in Kim Hedley and Ida Henley. Although neither saw much playing time as freshmen, they both showed marked improvement in spring practice and could contribute this season. The two incoming freshman forwards are Katie Broaddus and Lauren Giles. Broaddus was a first team all-state player at Centreville High School, while Lauren, the younger sister of Tribe senior Kelly Giles, was a second team all-state pick at Jamestown High School.
Leading the way at midfield is senior tri-captain Shannon Karl, a tough player who extended her team-high consecutive games started streak to 57 after starting all 20 contests last season, despite nagging injuries that persisted throughout the campaign. Karl led the Tribe with seven assists in 2004, to go with six goals, for a total of 19 points, tied for second on the team. She is expected to continue to play an important role for W&M this season.
“Shannon is our most experienced midfielder and is one of the smartest players on the field,” said Hawthorne. “Staying healthy will be the key to her having a successful senior year.”
After Karl, the only midfielder with significant game experience is junior Becky Van Zee, one of the best athletes on the team with the ability to play anywhere on the field. She was selected as the team’s most improved player after ending last season with two goals in 19 games, including three starts.
While the remaining players listed at the position have little experience at the college level, the group arguably also has the most untapped potential of any spot on the team. A prime example is fourth-year junior tri-captain JJ Kubicek, who has been limited to just 20 games in her career due to a chronic injury. As a senior at Jamestown High School with current Tribe player Kelly Giles, Kubicek was named the state’s co-player of the year.
Another player with a chance to enter the lineup is sophomore Jessica Kacerek, who played in just eight games last year, but impressed the W&M coaching staff with a terrific spring season as a defensive midfielder.
“Jessica is very unpredictable, you don’t really know what she’s thinking until the ball is released off her stick,” said Hawthorne. “She did a very nice job of distributing the ball this spring.”
Third-year sophomore Julienne Palbusa will also push for time at midfielder after sitting out last year as she recovered from an ACL injury suffered in the middle of her rookie season.
Two freshman midfielders will join the team this season, led by 2004 Virginia Player of the Year Heather Winn, who played for Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach. Also new to the team is Holly Niro, an all-conference pick from Warrington, Pennsylvania.
The Tribe’s defense should be very solid, as W&M returns all four starters from last season. Anchoring the back line is fifth-year senior tri-captain Anna Davis, a second team all-region and first team all-conference and all-state pick in 2004. She has started 53 of W&M’s 59 games since her redshirt freshman year, including every game over the last two seasons. Davis made seven defensive saves last year, tied for the fourth-most in Division I and enters her senior year with 13 in her career, third in W&M history. In addition to her defensive efforts, Davis recorded her first career point last season, assisting the Tribe’s game-winning goal against seventh-ranked Old Dominion.
“Anna just gets better and more confident every year,” said Hawthorne. “As she has increased her confidence and skill, she’s been able to contribute to the attack more. She’s incredibly steady on defense and is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stop a ball.”
Senior Diana Esposito also started every game last season for the second straight year, making two defensive saves. An all-state selection and voted to the all-region and all-league second teams, she sparked W&M’s second-half comeback at No. 12 Virginia with an interception at midfield that she carried the length of the field and put home for her first career goal.
“Diana is a rock-solid, with her quickness, her ability to get out of trouble in the deep corner and her field vision,” said Hawthorne. “Now she is showing the ability to overlap into the attack as well.”
The third senior on the back line is Carly Falgowski, another outstanding defender who is showing the ability to add to the attack when the situation dictates. She has played in all of the Tribe’s games over the last two seasons, starting all but one, and also scored her first career goal in 2004, knocking in the game-winner against Drexel.
“Carly is a very smart, very experienced player with a high skill level,” said Hawthorne. “She’s similar to Anna and Diana in also becoming an offensive threat. Those three have been playing together on defense for three years already and they all are capable of setting the tempo of the game.”
The fourth returning starter on defense is junior Jaime Fitzgerald, who played every game last season, starting 11 of the last 12. She made defensive saves in a pair of one-goal wins against CAA opponents, scoring her first career goal and assist in two other conference victories.
“Jamie continued to improve throughout the season,” said Hawthorne. “She’s one of the fastest players on the team. To have someone with speed like that as a side back is a real asset.”
The only other returning defender on the team is sophomore Laura Kastelic, a CAA all-rookie selection last season. She played in 14 contests with three starts, earning an assist in a 2-1 win over James Madison.
“Laura would be the first person to step in if we needed someone else on defense,” said Hawthorne. “She’s physically strong and knows the game very well. Laura could win a starting spot on the back line or in the midfield.”
A pair of newcomers in Kaitlin Johnson and Sarah Salmon round out the defense. Both have high-level experience at National Futures and National Indoors and each earned first team all-state honors last season, Johnson in New York and Salmon at Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach.
W&M has developed a reputation for outstanding goalkeepers over the last few years, with the Tribe’s netminder having earned first or second team All-CAA honors in each of the last six seasons. That tradition is expected to continue this season, when sophomore Gwen Hunter takes over full-time starting duties in the cage for the Green and Gold. She recorded a 2.27 GAA with 26 saves last season in what was primarily a backup role, making nine appearances, including one start.
“Gwen is an excellent goalkeeper,” said Hawthorne. “She has a year of experience under her belt now and she should be able to gel pretty quickly with the defense in front of her.”
W&M’s backup goalkeeper will be redshirt freshman Kristen Gillis. Injured for much of the spring season, it may take some time before she is ready to see game action in the fall. Also joining the team for the first time this season is senior netminder Mary Teeter.
As is the case every season, W&M will take on one of the most difficult schedules in the nation. Hawthorne and assistants Quan Nim Anderson, Kelly McQuade and Tess Ellis will prepare the Tribe to face half of last year’s NCAA Tournament field and nine teams that ended the year in the top 20.
“It’s a great schedule,” said Hawthorne. “It’s strong enough that if we play well we should be considered for an NCAA Tournament berth. It will be very challenging.”
Included in the non-conference portion of the schedule are six games against teams that ended the year in the top 20, with four coming against top 10 opponents North Carolina (No. 1), Duke (No. 4), American (No. 7) and Richmond (No. 10). With the CAA ranked as the third-best field hockey league in the nation for the second straight season, according to the NCAA RPI report, the conference portion of the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Making conference play even more difficult is this season’s addition of Northeastern, which ended 2004 ranked ninth in the country.
“There are no easy weekends in the conference schedule,” said Hawthorne. “Northeastern is a very strong addition to what was already one of the best leagues in the country. We will certainly have our work cut out for us.”