Stevens, field hockey team remain hungry heading into 2015-16 season

UConn midfielder Roisin Upton (left) during the Huskies' game against Penn State at the Sherman Family Sports Complex on Sept. 6, 2014. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

The women of UConn Field Hockey will begin the 2015 campaign chasing history.

After finishing the last two seasons on top of their sport, UConn Field Hockey found themselves in a familiar spot this week. In the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) preseason poll released Tuesday, the Huskies were tabbed as the favorite to capture their third title in as many years.

UConn would be the first team to win three straight national titles since Wake Forest accomplished the feat during the 2002-2004 seasons.

It is no shock that UConn was picked to win it all again this year. The Huskies will have nine returning starters from a team that won the title less than a year ago. And having the most winning head coach in Division I history on the sidelines can only help.

Stevens will return to the helm for her 26th season as the head coach of the Huskies. Despite nearly 600 wins under her belt and two championship rings on her fingers, Stevens didn’t find it difficult to ask the team to improve.
 
“We just challenge the team to get better. (The team) has worked hard over the summer," she said. "They’ve added a skill set to work on and improve.”

There’s always pressure in sport isn’t there? So let’s have the great pressure, which is to repeat. We embrace that pressure.
— UConn field hockey head coach Nancy Stevens, on preparing the team for the 2015-16 season

Veterans like Roisin Upton and Charlotte Veitner were also singled out to have great years. Upton is favored to repeat as Big East Defensive Player of the Year and Veitner was named the preseason Big East Offensive Player of the Year after a stellar rookie year last season.  Olivia Bolles and Anna Middendorf joined the duo on the preseason All Big East team.

It takes a lot to create a champion. Talent, team chemistry and strong leadership are just two of the pieces needed to build a great team but the Huskies may already have the most important one: the motivation.

“We use a saying: ‘Hungry dogs hunt fast,’” said Stevens. “We work hard to keep the team hungry… There’s always pressure in sport isn’t there? So let's have the great pressure which is to repeat. We embrace that pressure.”

The Huskies will see live game action for the first time this year this weekend in a pair of games against Northwestern and Northeastern. 

“We feel this initial road trip is very important,” said Stevens. “Northwestern is the reigning Big Ten champion and Northeastern had a great year. We’re opening strong. We’re not playing weak teams to open up the year.”

The “hungry dogs” of UConn field hockey will get their first chance to live up to the preseason accolades this Friday at 2 p.m. as they take on Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois.


Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering UConn field hockey. He can be reached via email at bryan.lambert@uconn.edu.