(Posted September 1, 2005)

Huntingdon, PA - The bar has been set high for the Juniata College field hockey team. The 2004 edition of the team won 14 games, went 6-1 in the highly-competitive Commonwealth Conference, made its first appearance in the national Division III top-20 poll and finally capped the season with the program's first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament. Yet with all that success and with Juniata's emergence as a national contender, the 2005 field hockey team looks equipped to better last season's impressive finish.

Despite the loss of several valuable seniors, there is plenty of talent on hand to help post another run at a conference championship. Seven regular starters are back in the fold, including a pair of All-Conference performers. Add to the mix a talented group of younger players who will now get a chance to play larger roles and there is plenty of talent still in place.

"This group of players has a great deal of confidence that comes from having a lot of success," Head Coach Caroline Gillich said. "Winning is all they have known since they've been here, and that's what they expect. Our seniors have shown they are ready to step into the challenge of being the leaders of this team and continuing that winning attitude."

One of those seniors is Elise Zimmerman (Cumberland Valley/Boiling Springs) who earned All-Conference laurels as a junior and will anchor either Juniata's midfield or defense. She is one of four seniors who will need to step into leadership roles as the team progresses this season. Another senior stepping into a bigger role will be Andrea Way (Fair Haven Union/Fair Haven, Vt.) who will assume the starting goalkeeper role in her senior season and will anchor the defense. Juniors Cory Hamblet (South Carroll/Westminster, Md.) and Bobbi Rickenbaugh (East Juniata/McAlisterville) will also play critical roles defensively.

While veterans may help carry the Juniata defense it will be a mixture of speedy veterans and youngsters tackling the offensive duties. Pacing the attackers is sophomore Kim Wagner (Middletown/Middletown) who was All-Conference pick and the Conference Rookie of the Year as a freshman when she scored a team-best 16 goals. Her goal total tied the Juniata record for goals in a season. Joining her in the attack will be juniors Sarah Bender (Eastern York/York) and Kat Vera (Albert Einstein/Silver Spring, Md.). Sophomores Michelle Campbell (Northern Lebanon/Annville) and Meredith Low (Sun Valley/Aston) also played valuable minutes as freshmen and should be ready to add to the attack.

"We have a lot of speed offensively, and a lot of aggressive attacking players," Gillich noted. "Everyone on the team has the ability to work well with each other, which makes us very versatile. Our attackers aren't afraid to attack and shoot at anytime. They have the mindset that they were looking to score."

As much as the on-field talent level has helped Juniata reach its plateau as a national caliber program, it's the team's togetherness off the field that fuels its success. The Eagles are a close-knit group that has developed an on-field chemistry that perfectly fits their style of play.

"The attitude of our team works with the way we play," Gillich said. "We play a zone system which requires everyone working together and playing off of one another. They all have great confidence in each other, and trust that everyone is going to fulfill their role."

Success has become the expectation for the Juniata field hockey team. With lots of talent on hand, and no change in the team-first attitude that has become a big part of the success, the lofty expectations for the program don't seem unreasonable.


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Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.