The Massachusetts field hockey team is projected to be crowned Atlantic 10 conference champions in 2010, according to this year’s preseason poll.
Nine Minutewomen starters will return from last year’s squad, including All-American and A-10 Defensive Player of the Year senior midfielder Makaela Potts, and All-Conference goalie Alesha Widdall.
Additionally, forward Katie Kelly and defender Jaime Bourazeris round out a strong senior class whose experience will attempt to propel the Minutewomen to its third A-10 championship in the last four years.
Following closely behind UMass in the preseason standings is Richmond, the team that knocked them out of postseason play last season.
The Spiders will have to defend their 2009 championship without six key players from the class of 2010, including the Player of the Year Sarah Blythe-Wood, who scored 22 of the Spiders’ 65 goals in 2009.Picking up the offensive slack this year will be two-time All-Conference junior forward Katelin Peterson.
Temple is right behind in the chase of the Minutewomen and Richmond. The Hawks are hopeful that they can continue their success after a runner-up finish last season.
Unproven and the A-10’s newest members Lock Haven bring an impressive resume from the Northeast Conference and are predicted to finish fourth in its debut season.
Rounding out the bottom half of this year’s preseason poll are Saint Joseph’s, La Salle, West Chester and Saint Louis.
This season will mark the last chance for the West Chester squad at an A-10 championship as they will move to Division II next season.
Lock Haven to debut in A-10
Lock Haven, formerly of the NEC, will be competing in the A-10 this fall, and bring an impressive resume with them.
Led by head coach Pat Rudy, the Lady Eagles boast a record of 249-60 in the past 14 seasons, including a 43-3 record in NEC play since joining that conference in 2004, five NEC titles and a berth in the NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championships the past four seasons.
The Crimson and White are coming off a successful 18-5 season in 2009, including the aforementioned tournament berth. In 2010, they will look to senior Amy Hordendorf, who led the team in goals and points scored in 2009.
The Lady Eagles opened its 2010 campaign Aug. 28 with a loss at New Hampshire and begin A-10 competitions on Oct. 8th when they host Richmond.
From the opening whistle, they will be expected to perform well, as they were tabbed to finish fourth in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll behind annual frontrunners UMass, the Spiders and Temple.
Last gasp for West Chester
The 2010 fall season will mark the last year of Atlantic 10 and Division I competition for the West Chester field hockey program.
The program, which competed in Division I since its inception and the A-10 since 1996, will be taking a step down to the Division II level as part of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference beginning in the fall of 2011.
The move will put all 24 intercollegiate athletic programs at the university to Division II, where West Chester believes it will have a better chance of success and where it agrees with its “Life in Balance” philosophy of athletics.
The transition follows in the footsteps of the West Chester baseball program, which made the move down to Division II in 1995, and the field hockey program hopes to echo their success, which includes two national semifinal appearances and 10 winning seasons in a row.
The program has business to take care of in 2010, however. Projected to finish seventh in this season’s preseason poll, the Golden Rams opened the season with a 3-0 victory at home against Fairfield.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected].