On Sept. 9, the Amherst field hockey team will open up the season against Mount Holyoke in what marks the Mammoths’ first game in almost two years.
Led by six captains — Sage Geyer ’23E, Beth Williamson ’23E, Natalie Hobbs ’23E, Sophia Kaplan ’22, Caroline Donahue ’22E and Coutney Lowe ’22E — the team is coming off an 8-7 2019 campaign. But the roster this year looks significantly different than it did pre-Covid.
The 2021 team is admittedly young, with nine first-year students making up almost half of the 23-person roster. “Our squad is young, but our first-years have been working very hard to come in and get ready for the season,” Gwen Allen ’23 said.
In fact, the team only returns 11 players from the lineup that last competed in 2019. Sarah Edelson ’23, one of only two first-years who recorded a goal during the 2019 season, remains confident in the team’s ability to contend for a NESCAC title. “Our team has shown up physically and mentally prepared for a strong season, and we are excited about returning to NESCAC play,” Edelson commented.
While the ongoing pandemic is forcing athletic teams across campus to adapt their normal routines, the field hockey team’s lack of a field is adding a unique layer of adversity. In April, the college broke ground on an extensive renovation project of Hill Field, which aimed to install a new playing surface, irrigation system, LED lights, bleachers and covered benches to the existing field.
Construction was originally set to take place throughout the summer in order to debut the new Hill Field this fall. The renovation, however, is running behind schedule, forcing the Mammoths to practice at the UMass Amherst field hockey stadium.
For the past week, the student-athletes have been forced to travel by vans to UMass, where they’ve had to work around the Minutewomen’s schedule. Pre-season practice began at 6:00 a.m., but because of Covid locker room capacity limits, some of the athletes had to show up to practice as early as 5:20 a.m.
Even so, midfielder Julianne Ross ’23 expressed pleasure about the team's first week of practices. “Being out on the field all together again is the best feeling in the world. Regardless of the circumstances and the unpredictable conference competition, I think we would all agree that we had a strong preseason,” she said.
After next week’s debut against Mount Holyoke, the Mammoths will play an average of three matches per week until Oct. 26, when the team hopes to close the regular season at a renovated Hill Field.