By Bailey Knecht, sports editor
The Northeastern University (NU) field hockey team cruised to a 14-5 record in 2014, led by strong veteran players. The team has returned for its 2015 campaign, this time with a much younger squad. Though it’s early in the season, the reigning Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) regular-season champions have struggled. The Huskies currently hold a record of 1-3 after facing three ranked opponents.
“The first couple of games were tough,” Head Coach Cheryl Murtagh said. “We were facing great attacking teams and we’re still learning how to defend them.”
On Aug. 29, the team fell to No. 1 University of Connecticut in a 6-0 blowout. The Huskies followed up with a 4-1 loss to No. 10 Northwestern University and a 2-1 defeat to No. 18 University of Massachusetts Amherst. They turned it around at Providence College on Sunday,coming home with a 2-1 victory. The win marks NU’s fourth-straight over Providence, a streak dating back to 2011.
“The high number of goals that went in on us was kind of demoralizing, but I think we bounced back quite nicely,” junior goalkeeper Becky Garner said of the season thus far. “We’ve been working really, really hard to fix the problems we’ve had, especially on defense. We’ve really stepped it up.”
Junior midfielder Natalie Stewart and sophomore forward Kristin Abreu scored in the triumph over Providence. Garner tallied six saves. She has made 30 saves on the season with a .698 save percentage.
Although the first three matches did not result in wins, NU saw some positive signs. Freshman forward June Curry-Lindahl scored her first collegiate goal against Northwestern from a penalty corner. She also tallied an assist against Providence. Curry-Lindahl is one of 11 newcomers to the young team.
“We have some freshmen that have been doing really, really well,” Garner said. “June has been doing greatand she has great vision of the pitch.”
Murtagh, the reigning CAA Co-Coach of the Year, echoed Garner’s sentiments.
“We have a mix of players,” Murtagh said. “We have very good upperclassmenand our freshmen have done a great job of mixing into the team.”
Murtagh believes that, in order to win, the team needs to continue to improve on defense and be more aggressive on offense.
“We just need to keep better possession,” she said. “We need more shots and more pressure on opponents.”
The Huskies, who were picked third in the CAA preseason poll, hope to add to their win column with a pair of road games this week. They will travel to Dartmouth College on Friday and the University of New Hampshire on Sunday.
“If we keep working on what we’ve been doing in practice, it’s going to be a nice, un-stressful environment because it’s been quite high-stress so far,” Garner said. “Once we’re all on the same page, it’s so nice and it’s great hockey.”
Photo courtesy Northeastern Athletics