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Duke field hockey team set For 2006 season

Posted Thursday, August 24, 2006

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Durham, N.C. - Under the leadership of head coach Beth Bozman, the 2006 Field Hockey team is poised for another record-breaking season. In 2005, the Blue Devils became one of only six teams to make three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Final Four (2003, ‘04, ‘05). After falling in the national championship game to Wake Forest in 2004 and to Maryland in 2005, the team has found a new determination.

“This last year’s loss in the championship game had the biggest impact of any loss that this team has experienced,” said Bozman. “I think it changed the program forever in a really positive way. It cut very deep and they took from it a new hunger.”

Led by a veteran midfield and a talented group of underclassmen, Duke will look to capitalize on its depth and experience.

“Basically, our whole team has been to the championship game a number of times, and our rising seniors have been there three years in a row,” said Bozman. “So we bring that kind of championship experience this year.”

Despite the loss of its top two scorers, Nicole Dudek and Katie Grant, to graduation, Duke returns eleven letterwinners, six of whom were regular starters last season. With all returning members of the team healthy, the Duke roster should be in full force.

The Blue Devils return one of the fastest and most versatile midfields in the country, including the senior trio of Hilary Linton, Cara Lopresti and Amy Stopford, who combined for 12 goals and 20 assists last year. Along with sophomore Laura Suchoski, each were named to the All-South Region and All-ACC teams, while Linton garnered first team and Suchoski garnered third-team All-America honors.

After setting new school scoring records in 2003 (106) and 2004 (112), Duke’s goal total dropped to 85 last season, partly the result of an incomplete roster for part of the fall season. Stopford, Lopresti, Linton, and then-senior Grant, who combined for 36 of the team’s 85 goals for the season, missed four games while representing Canada and the United States at the Jr. World Cup in Santiago, Chile.

The consistent presence of Stopford, Lopresti and Linton will be crucial to mobilizing the attack.

“We need to score,” said Bozman. “We’re losing two key scorers and we need to find a way to get the ball in the cage. Across the board we’re strong and one of the things we’ve always done is score a lot of goals. We’re going to need to get that back.”

With the loss of Dudek and Grant, who combined for 137 goals and 91 assists over four years, Duke will turn to its veteran midfield to help even out its scoring load.

“Everybody played a lot in the spring,” said Bozman. “Everybody stepped up. It made us a much more versatile team with everybody playing a little bit of everything. And when you add our incoming freshmen, we’ve got a pretty solid core.”

The Seniors

Up front, the Blue Devils will be led by Lopresti and co-captain Elizabeth Floyd. Lopresti started in 19 games last season, swinging between the midfield and attack. In 2006, the transfer from Stanford will spend most of her time at the forward position.

“Cara gets to play a role that she’s wanted to play since she got here,” said Bozman. She had a great spring season and scored a lot of goals, so I think she’s going to be able to fill the void. Cara has a lot of international experience and has played a key role in the midfield for us, but she possesses really special stickwork and is a great leader on our attack.”

Despite battling injuries for much of her career, Floyd saw playing time in 19 games last season and looks to return healthy and strong for the fall season.

“Liz Floyd has been injured on and off since she got here but she’s one of our captains,” said Bozman. “She had a great spring, too, and is finally injury-free.”

Linton, a first team All-America and two-time team captain, anchors the returning midfield. A member of the Canadian U-21 National Team and three-time All-ACC Tournament selection, Linton helped the Blue Devils set school records for goals (117), assists (90) and points (324) in 2004 and brings speed and agility to the field.

“What we have is balance and versatility,” notes Bozman. “Our midfielders have the versatility and are some of the strongest players in the country.”

In 2005-06, Linton was a nominee for the Honda-Broderick prize, which honors the best collegiate woman athlete in the country. Linton and Floyd will team up to serve as co-captains in 2006.

“They’re good role models,” said Bozman. “I think they’re really hard working players, but they bring a little something different for everyone on the team. I think you’re as good as your leaders on a team, and Hilary and Liz understand what it takes to lead.”

Stopford, who started 19 games for Duke last fall, helped lead the U.S. U-21 National Team to its highest finish in September at the 2005 Jr. World Cup. Shifting between the midfield and defense, she will be a critical stopper to the opponent’s attack.

“Amy played a lot of defense for us in the spring. She is very talented, and she’s probably going to be able to step into [Kirsten Bostrom’s] role,” said Bozman.

The Juniors

Assisting at the midfield and forward positions is junior Rachel Link, one of last season’s key reserves and an expected starter in 2006. Link played in 19 games last season and contributed four points, registering the team’s second highest shot percentage at .333.

Junior defensive standout Shayna McGeehan led the Blue Devils to six shutouts last season and was named to the All-South Region second team.

“Shayna played every minute for us on defense,” said Bozman. “That’s what she does. She’s very difficult to beat.”

McGeehan and Courtney Elliott, who saw increased playing time last year after an injury-plagued freshman season, combine to make up one of the top defensive forces in the ACC.

In the goal, junior Caitlin Williams returns as a skilled and experienced veteran. She started four games as a freshman in 2004, including three shutouts. With senior Christy Morgan injured early in the 2005 season, Williams moved from first reserve to starter, playing 11 games and registering a .822 save percentage. Her performance in the goal put her in competition for the permanent starting slot.

“Caitlin played for us quite a bit,” said Bozman. “It really was a coin toss, and Christy got the nod in the end.”

With textbook skills and disciplined precision in the net, Williams is well-positioned to improve on her already impressive goals against average of 0.86.

“Caitlin is a really talented goalkeeper,” reflects Bozman. “She’s very schooled, and she’s a really good communicator on the backline.”

The Blue Devils will look to her leadership to guide communication for the Duke defense.

The Sophomores

Laura Suchoski made her mark early in her career at Duke, starting 22 games and registering two goals and four assists from the midfield as a freshman. As a returning starter, Suchoski brings a tough and resilient front to the Duke offense.

A freshman All-America and NCAA All-Tournament team member, Suchoski had the game-winning assist to Nicole Dudek in the final two minutes of Duke’s 2-1 sudden-death overtime victory against Princeton in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament when she also garnered Duke’s first defensive save of the season. She was the only freshman to be selected to the 2005 Dartfish/NFHCA Division I All-South Region team.

Sophomores Ashley Pultorak and Marian Dickinson, who combined for 11 goals and nine assists last season, will team up with Linton to guide the midfield. Continuing Bozman’s strategy of quick transitions and a rapid attack offense, Pultorak and Dickinson will push the offensive pace.

“They’re fast,” said Bozman. “Ashley played limited time last year but still scored a lot of goals for us.

Dickinson, who has lived and played in four different countries including Australia, Hong Kong and Canada, brings a depth and diversity of experience that has established her as one of the most fundamentally skilled players on the team. In the first game of her freshman year, Dickinson marked Duke’s first season goal against Louisville, a game in which she notched three goals and an assist.

“Marian really understands the game,” said Bozman. “She’s very effective in our press and our counter-attack.”

The Freshmen

In addition to a deep and talented group of veterans, Duke’s 2006 roster boasts one of the strongest recruiting classes in the nation.

Freshman Amie Survilla was sixth among high school scoring leaders last year, registering 147 goals in her career at Crestwood High School in Mountaintop, Pa. A member of the USA U-21 team and three-year NFHCA High School All-America and Academic All-America, Survilla is known for her aggressive attack and quick stick skills. As a high school junior, Survilla led her school to the Pennsylvania state title, breaking the Pennsylvania state individual record and leading the nation in the highest number of goals scored in a season (63).

“She is going to be pretty important for us,” said Bozman. “When you bring in the kid who has the high school scoring record, obviously she has the ability to score a lot of goals. And she scored a tremendous number of goals in a really competitive conference in high school.”

Teammate Lauren Amicucci should also expect to see immediate playing time at the forward position. A 2004 Mid-Atlantic All-Region selection and two-time Rote Award (leading goal scorer) winner, Amicucci averaged over 30 goals per season between her sophomore and senior years at Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, Conn.

“Hopefully with people stepping up and then adding some new blood with these freshmen we’ll be able to put the ball in the cage a bit more,” said Bozman. “The freshmen bring something that we haven’t had. It’s just a drive-to-the-cage, whatever-it-takes to get the goals.”

At midfield, Lauren Miller and Brooke Patterson bring national experience and solid mechanics to the field. Miller, the Denver Post’s Player of the Year and second-team All-America selection, led Kent Denver School to three consecutive state championships in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Patterson, a 2005 first-team All-America member, followed a similar pattern at Emmaus School in Emmaus, Pa., garnering state titles in 2004 and 2005.

Backing up Courtney Elliott on defense will be freshmen Liz Doody and goalie Janelle Barth. Last fall, Doody led her Episcopal Academy teammates to a 14-4-1 record, and will likely serve as a key reserve for the Duke back line in her first year. As a senior at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Va., Barth registered 14 shut-outs and helped lead the Cavaliers to a 19-4-1 season finish, the highest in their conference. A member of the All-Virginia State second team and first-team All-Region in field hockey, Barth also garnered regional accolades in softball.

Coaching Additions

On the sidelines, Duke welcomes two new additions to the coaching staff. Maria Whitehead joined the coaching staff in February 2006 after three years as the head coach of St. Louis University.

“We had Maria on and off throughout the year, and we’re really happy to have her full-time,” said Bozman. “I think everybody in the country believes that she’s going to bring something to the table because she’s won a national championship as a player [at Wake Forest]. And she brings that grit, no excuses attitude to the team. That’s one intrinsic element that we might have been missing. She’s very positive but she’s also no excuses, and that’s a great combination.”

A 2003 graduate of Old Dominion, Tara Herrmann joins the Blue Devils as a volunteer coach. A two-time All-CAA and All-Region pick, Herrmann helped the Monarchs to four straight Colonial Athletic Association titles, as well as a Division I national championship in 2000.

“[Assistant Coach] Kelly [Baril], Tara and Maria are each All-Americas, but now we have two coaches with national championship experience,” said Bozman. “They’re all a little different. Tara brings a different element that will compliment and strengthen our staff.”

Schedule

Characteristic of Duke’s program, the Blue Devils will once again face one of the toughest schedules in the nation in 2006. The lineup features 12 teams that finished the year ranked in the top 20 of the STX/NFHCA National Coaches Poll, as well as seven teams that reached last year’s NCAA Tournament.

“Playing a weak schedule does you no good in the end,” said Bozman. “We really believe in playing the hardest schedule we can. You have to play and beat the best in order to be the best. That will always be our philosophy.”

For the first season in several years, the Blue Devils will finally get a stretch of games on their home turf. After playing on the road most of last season, between Sept. 10 and Oct. 1, 2006, Duke will host six home games, including four against top-20 teams.

“We open with the Champions Tournament here for the first time in the rotation,” said Bozman, “so we will finally have a heavy home schedule.”

After a five-game away stretch from Oct. 7-15, the Blue Devils will return to Williams Field to close the regular season against California and Virginia.

With such an outstanding roster and dynamic coaching staff, the 2006 team has all the pieces to make a national championship team.

“They have a really good personality,” said Bozman. “There’s no all-star, even though I think clearly there could be all-stars. They really work hard for each other. They are probably the most cohesive, unselfish group. They’re really in it for each other. They’re a team with a mission.”

Following an exhibition game at Wake Forest on Wednesday, the team will travel to the USA Field Hockey National Training Center in Virginia Beach Aug. 19-22, where the Blue Devils will hold several practices and participate in a scrimmage with William and Mary on Aug. 20.

Duke opens its 2006 season at its own Williams Field on Saturday, Aug. 26 when the Blue Devils host Louisville at 2 p.m. as part of the Champions Tournament.

 
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