FILE PHOTO: CHRIS GRIVAS/ THE HOYA  Junior Midfielder Emily Weinberg
FILE PHOTO: CHRIS GRIVAS/ THE HOYA
Junior Midfielder Emily Weinberg

After a disappointing 2013 campaign in which the Hoyas only won twice, there is a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the field hockey team this year. Despite being picked to finish last in this year’s Big East standings, first-year Head Coach Shannon Soares and her two new assistant coaches, Shelly Montgomery and Mary Beth Barham, are confident about the upcoming season.

Although NCAA polls predict that this year will be a rebuilding project for Georgetown, Soares insisted that expectations are not low within her program.

“I don’t believe in rebuilding. You set and work toward goals, and we’ve raised expectations for ourselves both physically and mentally, and we’re embracing those expectations,” Soares said.

The first of those aforementioned goals for the Hoyas (1-1) is to change the identity of Georgetown field hockey.

“I don’t like to focus much on the past,” Soares said. “We have a new style, new philosophy and a new culture that is focused on the future and I’m excited about the 21 women we have and the work they are going to put in to make this change happen.”

Sophomore midfielder Maria McDonald said that the entire team has embraced Soares’ “all in” philosophy.

“The team has been very receptive and willing to put in the time and effort to go to the next level,” McDonald said.

In addition to the changes in leadership and mentality, the Hoyas also changed their venue. Practices will be held and home games played on campus at the MultiSport Facility for the first time since 2007. Previously, the team was forced to trek to College Park, Md., at the University of Maryland for games that were devoid of a home advantage that the team will now enjoy.

“It gives us a deeper connection to and more pride in the school,” junior midfielder and captain Louise Chakejian said.

McDonald is also excited to play on the Hilltop for the first time.

“Now the team has something to fight for. This [field] is just ours to protect,” she said.

Although the Hoyas have undoubtedly faced adversity in recent seasons, this is a team that returns over 90 percent of its roster from last season.  This wealth of experience, coupled with a renewed focus on leadership, should bring brighter days ahead.

“We’re only as strong as our internal leadership,” Soares said while praising the commitment of this year’s captains: senior defender Brooke Simone, junior midfielder Emily Weinberg and Chakejian.

“The captains are extensions of the coaching staff. It’s our job to keep the energy up and control the tempo of games,” Weinberg said.

FILE PHOTO: CHRIS GRIVAS/THE HOYA Junior Midfielder Louise Chakejian
FILE PHOTO: CHRIS GRIVAS/THE HOYA
Junior Midfielder Louise Chakejian

Soares and the Hoyas will turn to the offensive side of the ball to make some of their biggest changes and put the “all in” philosophy to use. After being outshot nearly two-and-a-half to one last year, Soares seeks to implement “reckless” attacks, focusing on finishing in the offensive end.

Chakejian thinks this rejuvenated offensive approach will bring an air of confidence to the entire team.

“[We] will present the team as a united front and we play to win instead of not to lose,” she said.

So far, the changes have  resonated. Through their first two games, the Hoyas have netted seven goals, a mark they did not reach until their sixth game last season. Additionally, after their opening two games against Appalachian State and Davidson, Georgetown has attempted as many shots as its opponents.

Another offensive bright spot for the Hoyas this season should be increased production from young players. Freshman forward Megan Parsons has already netted a goal in each of the team’s first two games and sophomore forward Aliyah Graves-Brown has also netted two goals while assisting on two more.

Weinberg attributes the diversification and depth of the attack to a sense of equality among the team.

“We don’t believe in seniority,” Weinberg said. “Everyone is equal and that applies to expectations as well.”

If the Hoyas survive an opening 10-game slate in which they face seven road matches, the team can see out its expectations. The initial road-heavy schedule is balanced out by a plethora of home games to finish the season, including six of the final eight regular-season matchups.

The two biggest tests for the Hoyas this season will come in October, when they travel to battle reigning national champion Connecticut and host eighth-ranked Old Dominion. Although the Big East is a difficult conference and one of the nation’s best, optimism pervades the team this season.

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