With strong offensive and defensive returners, as well as a versatile incoming class, Virginia field hockey looks prepared to take on a highly competitive ACC, which has seven teams in the top 20 of the NFHCA Poll. As Coach Michele Madison’s seventeenth season approaches, utilization of the freshman class as well as cohesion with returning players are the keys to navigating a tricky schedule.
The 2021 Virginia field hockey season was expected to go well, as the team retained the entire starting line-up from the year before. However, while the Cavaliers were able to achieve a 12-9 winning record and improve their position from 2020, their postseason was unsuccessful with a heartbreaking 0-1 loss against North Carolina in the ACC Championship finals and an early NCAA Championship exit against Maryland in the Round of 16.
This year Virginia has a chance to rebuild, even with the roster missing essential players from the previous year, including the 2021 team leaders for goals and assists – Amber Ezekiels and Greer Gill respectively – as well as defensive starters Makayla Gallen and Rachel Robinson.
The 2022 roster shows nine new players, including eight freshmen – four of which were 2021 NFHCA High School All-Americans.
The incoming freshman class includes midfielders Lauren Kenah, Caroline Nemec, Madison Orsi, Sloan Davidson, Daniela Mendez-Trendler, Abigail Shim and Isabelle Roskott. Madison was also able to recruit freshman goalkeeper Jet Trimborn and graduate transfer Lindsay Dickinson for the defensive line.
The size and caliber of this incoming class will give the team an opportunity for positive change and fresh avidity, although its cohesiveness with the veteran players will be essential for the team’s success this season.
Notable returners include graduate midfielder Annie McDonough, who as a senior was a co-captain of the squad and ended the season with All-ACC Second Team honors. McDonough announced she would return for her fifth season in 2022. Also in the midfield is Senior Adele Iacobucci, the only Virginia player to be given the All-ACC Preseason honor this year.
Defense this season will be led by sophomore Jans Croon, who started all 21 games in her debut season, as well as sophomore Emily Field, who is also returning with 10 starts under her belt. Sophomore Tyler Kennedy, starting goalkeeper from last season, will also be returning.
Despite losing Ezekiels, the Cavaliers’ primary offense will carry over from 2021. Senior striker Laura Janssen and sophomore midfielder Noa Boterman each tallied five goals last season and will be back on the line up this year.
Virginia will start its season this weekend on the road against ranked opponents No. 11 Penn State and No. 17 Delaware. The first home games will be played against Temple and James Madison the following week (Sept. 2, Sept. 4).
The remainder of the schedule is scattered with ACC rivals such as Duke and North Carolina, as well as in-state opponents like William and Mary and Liberty. The Cavaliers will close their regular season with senior day versus Kent State and one last road game in College Park against Maryland.
Finally, Virginia will compete for its second conference title in the ACC Championships in Durham, N.C. Nov. 1-4 before heading on to the NCAA Championships Nov. 11-20.
The ACC Preseason Coaches Poll has Virginia finishing fourth, behind North Carolina, Syracuse and Boston College. To defy these odds and win their first ACC title since 2016, the Cavaliers must utilize the incoming talent, while also maintaining their familiarity and cohesion with the returning players.