After a summer break that didn’t seem nearly as long as it actually was, it is getting to be the time when UConn students return to campus for the fall semester. With the arrival of the school year, there is also the arrival of fall sports, and one of the most exciting teams to watch on campus this year will be the field hockey team.
Despite being the most recent UConn team to win a national championship in 2017, the field hockey team is still overshadowed by fall sports like football and soccer. However, they boast credentials that those two teams don’t have even when combined: three national championships this decade, seven straight conference championships and 17 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances dating back to 2002.
In fact, the only UConn team that has had more success this millennium is the women’s basketball team. That is pretty good company to be in, considering that UConn is regarded as the premier women’s basketball program in the country. Yet, because field hockey doesn’t have the same kind of mass following that basketball has, they continue to be overlooked despite being consistently great.
The Huskies open the 2019 season on Friday, Aug. 31 against Northwestern, and they play Stanford that Sunday. Both games will be played on Stanford’s campus.
This season will be the 30th for head coach Nancy Stevens at UConn. She is the all-time winningest coach in Division I field hockey history with 681 wins. Her string of success at UConn and grocery list of accomplishments really put her in a league of her own. To put it in layman’s terms, she is the Geno Auriemma of field hockey.
The Huskies are coming off a season in which they finished 19-4, and it was considered somewhat of a disappointment (sound familiar?). The reason for that is because they completed a perfect 23-0 season the year before en route to their third national championship in five years. It’s nearly impossible to repeat a season of that caliber, but the team still put together a fine year that resulted in another Big East title and top five finish in the rankings.
In the second round of the NCAA tournament, they dropped a heartbreaker to the eventual runner-up Maryland 2-1 in overtime, which ended their season. But the Huskies will be back and ready to compete for another title next week when the new season gets underway.
Stevens said that she is very excited to see what her team can accomplish this season on the field.
“We look forward to opening the season at Stanford University and will be playing five nationally ranked teams in our first five games,” Stevens said. “We believe our team is up for the challenge as we work to blend our experienced players with several talented first year players. We are excited to tackle one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country before chasing another Big East championship and NCAA bid.”
UConn may have lost their leading scorer and Mideast Player of the Year Cecile Pieper, but make no mistake, they are returning plenty of talent. Senior Svea Boker was an All-American last season, while senior Antonia Tiedke and junior Jessica Dembrowski earned spots on the All-Mideast Region team last year. Also returning is starting goaltender Cheyenne Sprecher, who is a redshirt sophomore. Sprecher put together a phenomenal rookie season in net and was named the Big East Freshman of the Year. She also earned a spot on both the All-Big East and All-Mideast Region teams for her efforts.
Along with the returners, there are also 10 new faces on the Huskies’ roster this year. Stevens and her staff successfully recruited many young players that will be hungry to see some playing time this season. Of the 10, seven are American while two are from Germany and one is from England. So while three of the freshmen had to fly across the Atlantic to join the Huskies, the two Connecticut natives didn’t even have to leave the state.
The next three months are sure to be very entertaining as the UConn field hockey team pursues yet another championship trophy for the mantle. If you are new to the school and unfamiliar with the team, or if you are an upperclassmen who has never paid attention to field hockey, go out and catch a few games this season. I can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Danny Barletta is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.