The Northeastern University field hockey team will begin the 2015 season on Saturday in a neutral-site game against the University of Connecticut, the defending national champion. Here’s a preview of what you can expect from the Huskies, with insight from head coach Cheryl Murtagh and co-captain Becky Garner.
Last year’s team captured its first-ever Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title and then lost in the semifinals of the CAA tournament. What are your expectations for this season?
Murtagh: “To start, I think the team is excited about playing Connecticut in the first game. It will be a great challenge that will help us down the road. Big picture, our program’s goals haven’t changed: We want to make the NCAA tournament.”
Garner: “Our expectations are really high. Our primary goal is to win the CAA championship and then go from there.”
One of the biggest strengths of last year’s squad was the offense, which scored 47 goals in 19 games. What do you predict will be this team’s biggest strength?
Murtagh: “Playing better defense has been a big preseason focus for us. It was the one [aspect of our game] that hurt us last year, and we’re committed to improving our goals against average this season,” which ranked No. 24 in the nation in 2014.
The team is welcoming 11 new freshmen into the fold. Which of them do you think will make an immediate impact and why?
Murtagh: “Four freshmen will be playing—midfielder Rachel Campbell and forwards June Curry-Lindahl, Laura MacLachlan, and Abbey MacLellan. Curry-Lindahl, MacLachlan, and MacLellan will add depth to our front line and put a lot of pressure on defenses by creating havoc in the penalty circle.”
Garner: “June is so skilled and has great vision of the pitch. Rachel is a great listener and responds well to directions from the defenders. She’s strong on the ball and has great vision too.”
Garner, the co-captain and starting goaltender, figures to be one of the team’s most important players both on the field and in the locker room. What are you looking for from her this season?
Murtagh: “She’s a naturally talented athlete with extreme quickness and a knack for making the outstanding saves. Now, in her third year, we’re looking for her to be more consistent, and make the routine saves on a more regular basis. She’s looked good in practice—she’s been balanced and her clears have been strong.”
Garner, on her co-captain role: “My job is to bring a lot of energy to the group and keep everybody involved in the game. I also try to encourage my teammates and make sure all the freshmen are on board with our program. If we’re dynamic off the pitch, then we’ll be dynamic on the pitch.”
What about the new season are you most looking forward to?
Murtagh: “I’m anxious to see how this teams goes out and competes. The group is full of great people and the chemistry is pretty good right now.”
Garner: “I’m really excited to play UConn. We’re going to be thrown in the deep end and I think it’s our time to step up and show everyone that we have a really good team.”