August 31, 2011

Field Hockey Aims for Another Playoff Push in 2011

SELINSGROVE, Pa. – Coming off a tough 2010 Landmark Conference Tournament semifinal loss to Catholic, first-year head coach Kaitlyn Skelley Wahila expects her team to return to the postseason and march further into the playoffs in 2011.

"Our goal is to earn another spot in the top four of the Landmark Conference and have the opportunity to play in the championship game," Skelley said.

"Both coach Courtney Salsman and I hope to instill a work ethic focused on productivity all over the field," she continued. "We will play team defense while still playing attack field hockey and focus on positive results in our attacking circle."

The 2010 Crusaders finished with an overall record of 12-7, a 5-1 conference record and earned a second place finish for the regular season, and an 8-3 record at home, playing on Sassafrass Multi-Purpose Field.

The team played in six overtime games, including a three-OT game against Elizabethtown and posted a six-game winning streak from Oct. 9 - 30, which was snapped in the conference playoffs.

The Crusaders were fortunate to have a balanced scoring attack in 2010, with five players scoring six or more goals and eight players posting double digit points.

Last year proved to be a historic season for midfielder Ally Bradley, who finished with 16 goals and 10 assists for 42 points. The points total was second best in SU single-season history, while the goals were third best and the assists were tied for second best.

Goalkeepers Erin Ferguson and Margaret Ruth both contributed significant minutes last season, with the duo combining for five shutouts. Ferguson posted an 8-3 record while Ruth went 4-4.

Coaches Skelley and Salsman expect strong leadership from their six senior members for a final push to the postseason, including Ferguson, forwards Larisa Smith, Anna Spisak, Heather Moore, and backs Diana Mask and Laurel Monaghan.

Bradley, a junior, will look to continue her success in the attack and creating scoring opportunities. Fellow junior midfielders Jillian Terry, Tiffany Collins, and Allison Abey will be called upon to log valuable playing time and be key factors offensively.

Sophomores Ruth, Claire Keenan, Danielle Waleko, Rebecca Marion, and Nancy Heidt are expected to compete for starting positions all over the field.

Skelley wants to help mold the two incoming freshmen, Meghan Plunkett and Brodie Ercole, into the Crusaders' philosophy of playing attack field hockey.

The Crusaders are listed in fourth place in the Landmark Conference Preseason Field Hockey Poll, receiving 39 points. Juniata was voted as the top team in the conference, gaining 65 points, followed by Catholic with 49 and Drew with 42, respectively.

Susquehanna opens up the season on Sept. 3 at home against Albright in the Connie Harnum Classic. The competition also includes Misericordia and St. Mary's College (Md.).

The weekend tournament honors Harnum, the late former field hockey who coached the Crusaders for 27 years from 1974-2002, compiling a 195-159-3 record. Her teams made three NCAA Division-III tournament appearances and she coached no fewer than 32 first team all-conference players.

Conference play opens Sept. 24 against Drew. Other Landmark games include Oct. 1 at Catholic, Oct. 5 at Juniata, Oct. 8 versus Scranton, Oct. 15 versus Goucher, and Oct. 29 at Moravian.

"Our main focus will be using our non-conference games to help us learn and grow in preparation for our Landmark games," Skelley said.