Hopes are high for the 2016 IUP field hockey team after falling just short of a playoff appearance last season.
The new squad opens their season Sept. 10 at West Chester University, which will surely be a tough test as West Chester coasted to a 17-5 record in 2015.
Last year ended with the Crimson Hawks on the outside of the playoff picture, finishing with an 8-10 record.
Although the team did finish strong by winning their final three games, it proved to not be enough, but this year’s team will look to carry that momentum moving forward.
The Crimson Hawks return their top five scorers from last season, all of whom were double-digit point producers.
That group includes Ericka Griffith (senior, pre-physical therapy), Matti Reightler (sophomore, political science), McKenzie Noll (junior, accounting), Amber Bailey (senior, psychology) and Haley Klinger (junior, nutrition).
Reightler is a big piece to the puzzle for the Crimson Hawks, being one of the team’s top scorers as a freshman a year ago.
As such a big part of IUP field hockey’s future, Reightler knows that there is much to build on after ending last season on a three-game winning streak.
“This season we are very focused, despite us ending last year on a high note,” Reightler said. “We still are able to see where we needed to get better, its all about us improving our individual games so we can play better as a team.” But even Reightler knows that improvement will not be easy. “The mistakes we made last season have motivated us to want to improve, and we are willing to work hard to become successful.”
Reightler and the rest of her teammates have been putting in that hard work over the summer with rigorous conditioning and skill training, which they believe will pay off this season.
Standout defender and former All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference selection Olivia Young (senior, nutrition and dietetics) also returns.
In the PSAC Preseason Coaches Poll, the Crimson Hawks were picked to finish seventh in the conference.
The team has their sights set higher, though, and they hope to get over the playoff hump and earn a postseason spot.
Their first home game will come Sept. 14 against Shippensburg University, following, a road game at Seton Hill University.
IUP hopes to be better in the conference this year after they finished two games below .500 in conference play last season.
They will also look to trim down their scoring margin against opponents, a facet of the game they didn’t fare well in last year, as they were outscored 42-35 the entire season.
A bright spot for the Crimson Hawks last year was their shot total, and they will aim to build on that in 2016.
The high amount of shots didn’t amass to plentiful scoring, however, as only 35 out of 178 shots attempted resulted in goals. It should be a tall task, but an attainable goal with the top five scorers from last season returning.