The Slippery Rock University women’s field hockey team landed a seventh place ranking in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference preseason poll.
The team is led by their head coach Julie Swiney, who in her fourth year has led the team to two consecutive playoffs berths and three consecutive six plus win seasons.
Swiney began her tenure with the Rock in 2010 after taking over for Stacy Hart. In 2012, along with the 8-10 record, Swiney is also coming off a year, where she won PSAC West Coach of the Year.
In previous seasons, the PSAC has had two different divisions (East and West), but in the 2013 season, all 11 teams will be in one division, with only the top six teams making the playoffs.
Swiney says the seventh place pick will be motivation for the team.
“We are looking to improve every year, not just this year,” Swiney said.
The team saw the departures of only two of their top five point-getters in Ally Banks, who had four goals six assists for 14 points, and Kaitlin McGinnis, who had five goals for 1o points.
The Rock welcomes back seniors Meghan McKinney and Rebecca Williams. Both of the seniors played in all 18 games last year.
McKinney and Williams recorded career highs in shots. Williams also had three goals on 13 shots.
The Rock was led in points by returning sophomore Allison Shade. She had seven goals and one assist in her 15-point campaign last season. She also led the team with four game winning goals in the rocks eight wins last season. She commented on the departure of some of last year’s team and the upcoming season.
“This year we lost three crucial players, but we still have most of our starters returning,” Shade said. “I feel like we can be just as successful this year as we were last year, if not more, as long as everyone gives it their all.”
Coach Swiney talked about what kind of season she is looking for from Shade.
“She will create a lot of chances from the forward spot,” Swiney said. “She will be a big help with her experience.”
The team will also rely heavily on returning juniors Kaili Simmon, Lindsey Brown, and Kelsey Gustafson.
Brown had four goals and two assist last season for 10 points. Gustafson, who was named to the All-PSAC-Western Division first team, was also named a Synapse Sports second team All-American. Gustafson had three goals and four assist for 10 points last season.
Coach Swiney talked about Simmons and Brown eating up a lot of minutes and being leaders on the field
Courtney Lee, who started all 18 games in goal last year as a sophomore, will return this year as a junior. Last year she had 25 goals against and posted a goals against average of 1.41.
The defense also helped with that stat led by Baylee Childress, who started all 18 games last year as a freshman. She had five defensive saves last season. For her defensive efforts, she as awarded All-PSAC-West second team. She was also given PSAC-West Freshman of the Year and the Synapse Sports National Rookie of the Year.
Talking in terms of the game, the Rock was a better first half team last season. The Rock scored 21 goals in the first half, outscoring opponents 21-9.
The Rock also outshot their opponents in the first half 114-102. In the second half, the stats lean to the other side. They were outscored 11-16 in the second half. Along with being outscored in the second half, they were also outshot 96-136.
“We needed to have more consistency and focus throughout the entire game,” Swiney said.
The Rock will begin their season on Sept. 8 at home against American International College and the final regular season game is Nov. 2 at home against West Chester University.
Some of the highlights on the schedule will be first-rated and two-time defending National Champions West Chester University, when they visit on Nov 2.
The Rock lost to them 3-2 with less than six minutes left in the game last season.