Nick McAdam, Tangerine Clerk
The Utica Pioneers field hockey season kicked off against New Paltz and Oneonta, as the team split the pair of away games.
The Pioneers now have 15 games remaining on their schedule, several of which include playing against highly-ranked opponents such as the University of Rochester and Hamilton College.
Pioneers’s head coach Nikki Kieffer commented on the season ahead as Utica played multiple scrimmages before the season’s beginning.
“The team is right where it needs to be right now,” Kieffer said. “We’re aiming to be more consistent in terms of wins on the schedule, which will help us avoid a roller coaster ride.”
Last season, Utica finished with a record of 9-10. The team opened with a four-game winning streak. This high note was followed by four losses and one win over the course of the next five games.
Keeping in mind the road the Pioneers took in their last campaign, Kieffer is urging her team to focus on one game at a time.
“We play four nationally-ranked teams this year, so keeping a game-to-game mindset this year will hopefully work in our favor,” Kieffer said. “The record and stats don’t really bother me because we did finish second in our conference last season despite our record.”
UC is also welcomed nine new players to the team this year, made up of both first-year players and transfer students. Among the first-year players, the Pioneers recruited two midfielders and goalies along with one forward.
One of those new faces is midfielder Kennedy Guy, who is taking majoring in biochemistry. Guy has yet to make an appearance in a game, but she plays the midfield position which is heavily comprised of juniors and seniors.
Guy is getting her feet in the waters of a new team and collegiate playing level, which she is expecting to be a lot faster than high school.
“My main goals are getting out of my comfort zone and being able to create strong relationships with all of the girls and coaches, as well as figuring out strategies that work for me to balance my school work and dedication to field hockey,” Guy said.
“There are just a few things I’m expecting to be different. The speed of the game, I’m expecting it to be much quicker. The one I’m nervous but ready to tackle is the different skill level of every single girl,” Guy added.
On the flip side of the coin, the Utica Pioneers are set to send off seven seniors at the end of this season. Players are going to be lost from all areas across the field. Carly Tebolt is the only senior in the goaltending position. Tebolt has already set her expectations in her final season for herself, her position and the team.
“This year, I have high expectations of myself in my goalie position,” Tebolt said.
“It can be a tough position, but one that I fell in love with as soon as I first put the gear on. My goal for myself is to try my best to start communication and to try my absolute best in challenging situations. My goals for my final season are to work the best I can to push my team and I to Empire 8’s and for us to take the championship.”
The ambition this team radiates is obvious. Tebolt also noted that the team wants to improve based on what they learned last year. They are striving to become a ranked Division III opponent.
“I can already see my team improving from last year, I notice us working better and better with each other every day, our team chemistry started off great this year and the new players are bringing their all to the table,” Tebolt said.