Year 2 of a rebuilding project has begun, and the Wittenberg field hockey team, coming off an uncharacteristic 9-9 record in the 2011 season, appears primed for a return to the upper echelon of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC).
Not that the Tigers fell too far in their first non-winning season since 1982. Wittenberg still managed to finish 7-6 in the conference and advance to the NCAC Tournament, which the Tigers have done every year since its inception in 2002.
Third-year Head Coach Kelley Hubbell welcomes a core group of eight letterwinners back in 2012, and they will be joined by an interesting mix of newcomers, including three transports from the Wittenberg women's lacrosse team and 11 freshmen. Leading the charge is the team's lone senior, midfielder Kellen Morrissey.
All Morrissey has done in her collegiate career is establish herself as one of the finest two-sport standouts in recent history, earning multiple All-NCAC designations in both field hockey and lacrosse. Coming off a 2011 season in which she contributed three goals and three assists while starting all 18 games, she will once again anchor the midfield with her speed and high energy.
Hubbell has numerous options to surround Morrissey in the midfield, starting with sophomores Audrey Phibbs and Beth Warning. Phibbs ranked third on the team with 11 total points a year ago, and Warning earned all-conference honors and the team's Newcomer of the Year award while contributing 25 total points in 2011. Versatile sophomore Alena Mohler, who made 11 starts a year ago, also figures prominently in the midfield mix.
Defensively, the Tigers return a pair of key letterwinners in sophomore Casey Fry, who made 12 starts in 2011, and junior Mallory Skrobot, who started 17 games and has also been a standout for the lacrosse team's back line in her first two years in the Red & White. They will play in front of either junior Jessica Jensen or junior Alie Marousek, the 2012 NCAC Women's Lacrosse Newcomer of the Year. They are vying to replace Jenny Schaafsma, who earned multiple all-conference awards and ranks third in program history with 357 career saves.
Offensively, the Tigers must replace one of the top scorers in program history, Elizabeth Dwyer. In addition to Phibbs and Warning, Hubbell will turn to sophomore Kelly McLean, who made 11 starts in her first season in the Red & White, at forward.
The Tigers open the 2012 season with a game against perennial powerhouse Salisbury on Friday, Aug. 31, at the Wilkes Colonel Classic. The NCAC portion of the campaign starts with a key road trip to defending champion DePauw on Wednesday, Sept. 5, followed by the 2012 home opener against arch-rival Wooster on Saturday, Sept. 8.