The Utica College field hockey team started their goal for a fourth straight Empire 8 title this past weekend with a win against Elmira College 4-1.
The task was different for the Pioneers as they prepared for Elmira considering Elmira plays on a grass field instead of a turf field.
“We had practiced on the grass for a few days prior to the game to get adjusted which was nice,” senior Tori Couture said. “We did not have to change our game plan to play on the grass we just knew we had to put a faster pace on the ball to make it go where we wanted it.”
It did not take UC long to adjust to the grass as they were able to score their first goal of the game just six minutes in as freshman Tiffany Evans put one past the goalie. The goal was Evans’ first collegiate goal, assisting her was senior Colleen Dowling. The Pioneers scored their second goal of the game ten minutes later by fellow freshman Rylee Meelan. This would also be Meelan’s first collegiate goal of her career and it gave UC a 2-0 lead going into halftime.
The field hockey team picked up right where they left off in the first half by scoring another goal three minutes into the half by junior transfer Meghan McCormick. Sophomore goalie Sam Whitehouse made a crucial penalty shot save a few minutes after the Pioneers’ third goal which kept them in the lead by three goals.
The Pioneers were not done yet, as Meelan was able to score her second goal of the game off an assist from Couture. Elmira scored a goal shortly after to cut the lead down to three goals. The lone goal by Elmira proved not to be enough as UC won their first conference game in the conference opener.
“We had a great game,” head coach Sarah Elleman said. “The team communicated well on the field and we had a great offensive push that we had not had in previous games.”
The squad lost a ton of experience after last year, but after a few games into the season, the underclassmen look like they can play at the college level competitively.
“All of the freshmen have stepped up and played a very dynamic role on our team,” senior Colleen Dowling said. “Six of them start and there are only 11 players on the field, so they outnumber the returners. There were some first game jitters but after that they knew what was expected of them and they have all done a nice job adjusting to collegiate play.”
One of the challenges the team has with a young group is to see if the upperclassmen are able to share their experience, so everyone on the team is on the same page. The Pioneers’ upperclassmen have proven to be good role models for the newcomers and welcome them with open arms.
“The upperclassmen have been great making the freshmen feel a part of the team,” Elleman said. “They have really taken them under their wing and have been guiding them and leading them to become collegiate field hockey players.”
The upperclassmen have been stressing the importance of confidence when it comes to games for the freshmen. They believe that if they have confidence during games it will help them win games.
“We see how they play in practice and we know what they have to offer so we don’t take it easy on them because we know their capabilities,” Couture said. “We tell them…you know what to do, now go do it with confidence.”
The Pioneers return to conference play at home on Saturday against Houghton College at 1 p.m.
“We have a great passing game we just have had trouble scoring,” Dowling said. “After Elmira though we know we can score so we just need to keep doing it.”