Starting the season with a 9-0 record, the ninth ranked field hockey team was confident that they would be able to find success as they headed into their first ever conference game. Their 5-0 victory against Frostburg State University, the first challenge as part of the Capital Athletic Conference, proved that they had the right to be.
The Captains’ strong start to the season truly has been a team effort, with both the offense and defense playing an important role. Attackers junior Belle Tunstall, sophomore Lauren Cheatham, who has scored at least one point in every game, and senior Kelsey Clark, who scored her first career hat trick in the Frostburg State game, have been instrumental to the fast-paced offense. Freshman goalkeeper Bailey Lien has been an instrumental part of the defense with an average of .49 points allowed per game, a feat that Head Coach Carrie Moura believes is helped by a skilled returning unit that includes seniors defender Shelby Judkins, attacker Jordan Snider and midfielder Chelsea Hines, who already has five defensive saves. “She’s got a veteran defense in front of her, so I think that makes her more comfortable, although she is pretty confident herself.”
In addition to this being the first 10-0 start for the field hockey program in CNU history, this is the first year that the team is in a conference of any kind, as they were an Independent team before this season, a fact that excites many of the players on the team. “I was nervous coming in because we lost really valuable players, but our team has come together so well. We all just have the same goal in mind, and we’re all super excited to be in a conference, and a hard one at that. That’s why we come out here and can’t take things lightly,” said Tunstall.
Although they will face the added pressure of having conference games, which include nationally ranked teams like University of Mary Washington, Catholic University, and Salisbury University, the current CAC champions. Moura isn’t too concerned with how the team will perform. “These are teams we typically play anyways. It’s not like it’s an opponent we haven’t seen before.”
If the team’s performance so far is any indicator of how they will continue in conference play, then the rest of the season looks promising. In addition to outscoring their opponents 38-7, the team has shutout five of their opponents, including Lynchburg College and Depauw University, two schools ranked in the top-15.
In addition to performing well in the conference, the team is also hoping to make it to the NCAA tournament for the eighth consecutive season. Cheatham believes that the team’s performance last year, which included a 17-2 record before losing to Montclair State University in the Sweet Sixteen, has helped this year’s team prepare for the rest of the season. “Normally, if you work really hard and it doesn’t work out, you would think that it would be negative, but that wasn’t the case for us. We just took what we did last year and built on it, just to keep progressing and fixing the little things we need to in order to get all the way through.”
Although the NCAA tournament is the team’s ultimate goal, the team is taking everything one game at a time. “Last year, we were so focused on winning a national championship. This year, our goal is ‘Win today, everyday.’ We’re out here everyday focusing on the next game, and that’s it.”
The Captains’ next conference game will be against St. Mary’s College on Oct. 5, but they first will have to face Catholic University on Oct. 2.