The defending NCAC regular season and tournament champions are in rebuilding mode, and playing a very difficult nonconference schedule hasn't made that process easy. Still, the Tigers have pulled out two wins in their last four games and hope to build on the momentum of a 3-1 victory over Earlham on Wednesday as they head into the heart of the 2003 conference schedule.
The season opened for the Tigers with a very challenging road trip at McDaniel, which opened the season ranked No. 6 in the nation, and York, which is in the upper echelon of one of the best field hockey conferences in the nation. The results were losses by scores of 3-0 and 3-1 for the Tigers, who graduated one of the best senior classes in school history in May.
Wittenberg rebounded upon their return to the friendly confines of Edwards-Maurer Field, claiming a 2-1 overtime win over Sewanee on Sept. 6. Junior Blair Ufer (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer) scored the game-winner in overtime and freshman Katy Barrett (Powell, Ohio/Watterson) scored the game's first goal.
NCAC action opened the next week and the Tigers were defeated 5-1 by Denison and 2-0 by Oberlin in road games against two of the top four teams in the preseason poll. Junior Ashley Smith (Pittsford, NY/Menden) had the Tigers' lone goal of the road trip.
Wittenberg picked up a much-needed home victory on Wednesday over Earlham. In that game, goals were scored by Ufer, senior Katie Babcock (Phoenix, Md./Dulaney) and freshman Melissa Jackson (Columbus, Ohio/Thomas Worthington), with assists contributed by Barrett, freshman Rachel Dunn (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny) and junior Carrie Happ (Pittsburgh, Pa./Vincentian).
For the season, Ufer leads with five total points as the Tigers search for the offensive production lost when record-setting forward Emily Duh graduated. Defensively, the team is replacing three starters who protected All-America goaltender Jen Meyer (Solon, Ohio/Hathaway Brown) so well, leading to 15 goals against, already one more than all of the 2002 regular season.
No rest for the weary, however, as the Tigers head back into NCAC competition at Wooster on Saturday. The Scots are the preseason favorite after finishing second to Wittenberg in 2002.