September 5, 2013

Field Hockey Home Opener Slated for Friday against Bryant

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Amidst optimism and stocked with returners, the Brown field hockey team opens its 2013 season on Friday with a non-conference contest against the Bulldogs of Bryant University at Goldberger Family Field at 4 p.m. The Bears, who finished 6-11 overall in 2012, begin their quest for an Ivy League Championship with four non-conference tilts before diving into Ivy League play at Columbia on Sept. 20.

Video of all home contests and all Ivy League games, home and away, will be broadcast live on BrownBears.TV. Fans can subscribe and view games by purchasing yearly, monthly, weekly or daily packages.

Third-year Head Coach Jill Reeve witnessed a well-conditioned Brown squad show up to training camp this fall. "I'm very pleased that the team came back to campus tremendously fit and ready to roll," Reeve said. "It's been fun to work with an experienced cast."

Time is on Brown's side when it comes to experienced players, as the Bears bring back 16 players including their starting goalie and virtually all of their offense from last season. Every Brown player responsible for a point in 2012 returns to the squad, including All-Ivy selections junior Meghan O'Donnell (Winchester, Mass.), junior Clayton Christus (Bernardsville, N.J.) and sophomore Alexis Miller (Caldwell, N.J.), who combined for 19 goals and 35 points last season. Junior goalie Shannon McSweeney (Boxborough, Mass.) also earned All-Ivy accolades after tending the cage for every minute of every game in 2012, while sophomore Hannah Rogers (Los Altos, Calif.) chipped in to the tune of five goals and two assists.

"Our offense is power-packed with speed and scoring potential," Reeve said, who noted that last year's top scorers are even more developed and have the chance to shift the scoring margin in Brown's favor. 

The scoring margin will also be dictated largely by continued impressive play by McSweeney in the cage. McSweeney made 185 saves last season - more than any other keeper in the Ivy League and the second most in the country. The Bears also faced more shots than any other team in the league, but a more experienced backfield looks to take some pressure off McSweeney and keep the ball on the other end of the field. 

"McSweeney is a top goalie in the nation with or without the number of saves she was asked to make last season," Reeve said of her junior keeper. "With a few changes and additions to the backfield, we will be able to minimize the number of attempts at our net to help compliment Shannon's efforts."

Some of the changes come by way of the freshman class that features five new players. Reeve notes that the high-caliber newcomers have challenged the coaching staff to configure the depth chart as the freshmen push the upperclassmen for starting jobs. "The starting roles are going to be difficult to decide on a daily basis," Reeve said. "That's a great problem to have if you ask me."

Once the roles have been established, the Bears are faced with the daunting task of navigating a seven-game Ivy League schedule that features the defending national champion Princeton Tigers. The top of the Ivy standings have been all but locked up in recent years by teams like Princeton and Dartmouth, and Reeve understands that cracking those top spots will be a formidable challenge.

"Success in the Ivy League will depend strongly on the ability to finish when the chips are down," Reeve said. "We let a few opportunities slip through our fingers last year and I think we've all – the team and staff – made some critical changes to our approach of the game that will improve our overall effectiveness."
 
Reeve anticipates that Brown's stint of four non-conference games to open the season will help solidify the Bears' winning mentality and peak their mental preparedness headed into Ivy League action.
 
"Learning how to win games and become a 'winner' is an ongoing process," Reeve said. "Our schedule this season provides challenges that will prepare us for postseason play."