Field Hockey Preview: 2006 Schedule
Aug. 15, 2006
East Lansing, Mich. -
A New Era
With an abundance of new faces coming into the field hockey program, the Michigan State Spartans look to begin a new chapter of success for the Green and White. Former assistant Rolf van de Kerkhof steps into the role of head coach for the Spartans and has brought in two new assistants, Helen Knull and Ashley Egland.
On the field Michigan State welcomes nine freshmen to their roster of 22, while returning 12 letterwinners. Van de Kerkhof is excited to see which players excel on the field, due to the graduation of five starting seniors from last year.
Although the team experienced a disappointing end of last season, the Green and White bounced back in the spring. With the departure of 13-year head coach Michelle Madison in January, Van de Kerkhof jumped right into his new position as head coach, bringing with him a new era of Spartan field hockey. With support from former volunteer coach Samantha Carr, student coach Michelle Carstens and All-Americans Michelle Huyn-ba and Christina Kirkaldy in the transition, MSU had a strong and successful spring season which saw individual and team development and increased academic and athletic performance.
Michigan State finished out the spring with a 5-2-1 record that led all teams in the T2D Hockey Spring League season, in addition to winning the Ball State Indoor Tournament. The returning Spartans showed that although they had lost five starters, they were ready to make a name for themselves, keeping with their motto, "Spartan Pride Never Dies."
An experienced group of Spartans will contend for playing time at the forward position including seniors Ashley Smeltzer and Megan Nimke, juniors Becky Manning and Kathy Elenz-Martin, and sophomores Michelle Ciliberti and Gwen Riley.
Smeltzer, Manning, Elenz-Martin and Riley all saw significant playing time last season and are all familiar with what is needed to be successful at the collegiate level. Of the returning forwards, Riley led the group in points for the 2005 season, with 7; while junior Becky Manning leads returning forwards in goals for 2005 with 3.
"Gwen Riley did an outstanding job as a freshman," said Van de Kerkhof. "She played relentless as well as opportunistic. The spring was good for Gwen in her development of individual skills and understanding of how we would like to play the game."
In addition, the Spartans will have Ciliberti back in their lineup following a medical red shirt year. In her 2004 freshman campaign, Ciliberti saw action in 22 games, recording 4 goals.
Newcomers Sarah Jones and Molly Ryeser will also be looking to get playing time on the forward line. Jones was a three-time all-state honoree, including two first-team honors, as well as being named to the all-state academic team in her senior year at Emmaus High School in Allentown, Pa. Ryser was named all-district and all-league in both her junior and senior years. As a junior her team won the state championship.
In the midfield, Michigan State will be led by seniors Ashley Pernicano and Kristin Dunn. The two seniors will be joined by three freshmen: Floor Rijpma, Anne-Sophie van Rijswijk and Molly Ryser. Although the midfield may appear young on paper, the Spartans should have a strong midfield with the combined experience of the group. The midfield will assist in building the attack, set up scoring opportunities, and be involved in capitalizing scoring opportunities on offense. On defense, the midfield will organize the pressure on the opponent.
"All-America candidate Ashley Pernicano will lead this team," said Van de Kerkhof. "Ashley has continued to develop herself into a better player, a stronger player and has developed her mental toughness as well."
Pernicano started 19 of last season's 20 games. Of her four goals last season, two of them were game-winners. In addition, Pernicano tallied four assists putting her at 12 points for the season. Dunn also saw significant playing time in 2005, appearing in 19 games. Her lone assist of the season came in the Spartans 4-1 win over Northwestern.
"Ashley will receive support from Kristin Dunn who can be considered a spokesperson on behalf of the group as well as the coaches," said Van de Kerkhof. "She is very strong in relating the word from the players to the coaching staff."
Rijpma joined the Spartans in the spring and has been learning more about the American style of play.
"We look forward to seeing more of her as a building-up, supporting role on the attack, as well as with ball distribution," said Van de Kerkhof.
Four letterwinners return to the backfield that held opponents to an average of 1.57 goals last season. Senior Becky Bolen, juniors Amy Schneider and Charlotte van der Laag, and sophomore Geraldine Raynor all figure to earn playing time on the field.
"Amy Schneider has been very strong the past two years," said Van de Kerkhof. "She will be a big player for us on defense, adding experience and knowledge to strengthen our backfield."
Schneider started 16 games last season, and led the team in defensive saves last season with three. On offense, Schneider produced one goal on four shots. Bolen also notched a defensive save last season. Van der Laag recorded 1-2-4 totals, scoring her first collegiate goal against Stanford.
Three goalies are on MSU's roster, yet none of them are guaranteed the starting job entering the season. Following the departure of All-American Christina Kirkaldy, MSU's position will be decided in camp. Fifth-year senior Stephanie Yuhasz could have a slight advantage over freshmen Melissa Katz and Elissa Unger, but all three are talented enough to compete for playing time. Yuhasz returns to the Spartan lineup after a two-year break from the program due to academic obligations.
Katz and Unger come to Michigan State after impressive high school careers. "Melissa and Elissa are both very talented and are eager to compete for playing time," said Van de Kerkhof.
Katz comes to MSU from Monmouth Regional High School in New Jersey, where she recorded 15 shutouts in three years. Katz was also named all-division and all-state second team in her senior season. Unger comes to State from Reading, Pa., where she attended Exeter Senior High School. A three-year starter for the Eagles, Unger posted a 1.2 goals-against average and an .894 save percentage in her senior season.
The goalie unit will receive top-notch attention from goalkeeping coach Ashley Egland on a daily basis, while also receiving attention from the entire coaching staff during specific goalkeeping training sessions.
Four members of the field hockey team took advantage of the MSU Study Abroad program this summer, learning about other cultures, and gaining field hockey experience outside of the U.S.
Pernicano, Elenz-Martin and Van der Laag spent six weeks in Australia. While there, the girls took a class; travelled to Sydney, Melbourne and Cranberry; and learned about the Australian culture, while training with some of the best coaches.
Manning spent three months in Madrid, Spain, where she lived with a local family while attending classes and training. She also spent her time visiting Spanish landmarks and experiencing the Spanish lifestyle.
The athletes will carry their international experiences onto the field with them in the 2006 season.
The Michigan State field hockey team is once again set to face some of the nation's top programs. Nine of the Spartans' 19 regular season opponents were ranked in the top 20 in the 2005 NFHCA final coaches' poll.
"The schedule is a well-balanced schedule as it relates to ranked opponents, out-of-region, and non-conference competition that will help us prepare for the Big Ten season," said Van de Kerkhof.
The Green and White starts off the season with a six-game road swing, heading first to compete at the Champion's Invitational in Durham, N.C. The team will face Delaware, with the winner moving on to compete against the winner of the Louisville/Duke game in the final.
The following weekend, MSU will travel to Philadelphia, Pa., where it will match up against American University on Sept. 2 before meeting up with Temple on Sept. 3. The Spartans will then head to Harrisonburg, Va., to meet up with James Madison (Sept. 8) and St. Joseph's (Sept. 9). "James Madison has been building a very nice program the past two or three years, so that's going to be a very big game for us," said Van de Kerkhof.
In its first home game, Michigan State is scheduled to play Yale in a mid-week matchup on Sept. 14. This will be the first-ever meeting for the two programs.
The Spartans will make the trip to Kent, Ohio, to face Wake Forest on Sept. 16. The Demon Deacons were ranked No. 2 in the final poll of last year. The following day, the Green and White will take on Kent State.
MSU will host its first Big Ten opponent, Penn State, on Sept. 23.
"The Big Ten is, as always, very challenging as most of the programs are ranked in the top 20 in the nation," said Van de Kerkhof. "Penn State finished first in the Big Ten regular season last year, and will be a very good game to start conference play."
The Spartans will welcome Central Michigan to East Lansing, on Sept. 26.
State will then face three conference opponents: Northwestern on Sept. 30, defending Big Ten tournament champion Michigan on Oct. 6, and Iowa on Oct. 14. The Iowa game also marks homecoming for the Spartans, as they welcome their families for an exciting conference game and weekend full of team activities.
The Spartans will play Central Michigan for the second time on Oct. 17, this time with the Chippewas holding the home-field advantage.
In its final regular season conference games, MSU will face-off with Indiana on Oct. 21 in East Lansing. The team will then head to Ohio where it will play Ohio State on Oct. 29. MSU will go to Athens, Ohio, for its final non-conference meeting on Oct. 29 against Ohio University.
Michigan will host the 2006 Big Ten Tournament from Nov. 3-5. The NCAA Regionals will be held from Nov. 11-12. The NCAA championships will be held in Winston-Salem, N.C. from Nov. 17-19.
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