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Season Preview: Versatile Crimson Squad Set for Success in 2009

The Harvard field hockey team will look to build on a solid foundation of skill, athleticism and versatility to climb the Ivy League standings in 2009.

The Crimson welcomes 10 returning players and a class of six strong freshmen for this season, which begins Sept. 5 with a visit to Holy Cross. Head coach Sue Caples believes the pieces are in place for a successful campaign.

"We're athletic, we have good field hockey sense, and we're fundamentally sound," said Caples. "Everyone's going to be able to contribute to the team in different ways. That's our biggest strength."

With freshmen and sophomores occupying 10 of the 15 spots on the roster, the Crimson will be a young team. Those young players, however, have plenty of ability. Two sophomores are coming off rookie seasons in which they started every game and earned All-Ivy accolades. Two others contributed off the bench last year and will look to make more of an impact in 2009.

The freshman class features talented players from across the country and abroad. Those players come to Cambridge with a track record of success and will be looked upon to contribute all over the field, as well as in goal.

Leading the way will be a small but solid group of upperclassmen. Each of Harvard's five juniors and seniors played in every game when healthy, and each started at least five games. All played vital roles and will be counted on as leaders in on-field performance and off-field preparation.

The group as a whole is a skilled unit with many interchangeable parts. Players throughout the roster have the ability to play in different positions and roles on the field, resulting in a depth of talent and plenty of options for Caples in the run of play and on penalty corners.

"We're not going to just put everyone only in one spot," said Caples. "We're going to be very versatile and attack from all positions."

In almost any sport, strong play and leadership in the middle of the field is a key to a successful team, and the 2009 Crimson should be a prime example of this trend. Senior captains Kristin Bannon and Elizabeth Goodman-Bacon are both important players in the Harvard midfield. Aside from the nine games missed by Goodman-Bacon with a season-ending injury last year, she and Bannon have started every game over the last two seasons. They have been major factors in field play and on offensive penalty corners.

Another anchor in the midfield will be sophomore Carly Dickson. A member of the Canadian National Team, Dickson made her mark quickly as a freshman. She scored the team's biggest goal of the season, the lone tally in a 1-0 win against rival Yale, and went on to first-team All-Ivy League and second-team all-region honors.

Junior Chloe Keating has shown a tendency to net big goals, as five of the six she has scored have been game-winners. She scored four goals last season and, along with Bannon, who netted four goals to go with five assists in 2007, will be looked to for some scoring punch in the offensive circle. Freshman Molly Stansik will also look to contribute right off the bat in the Crimson midfield.

The Crimson will look for increased offensive production throughout the lineup, as only one forward, sophomore Allie Kimmel, returns from last year's squad. Kimmel played in 16 of Harvard's 17 games a season ago and could be joined in the forward rotation by Keating, Emma Keller, Nix Maasdorp and Katelin Wahl.

On the back line, Harvard has back juniors Pilar Curtis and KJ Warren, as well as sophomores Pilar Mayora an Georgia McGillivray. McGillivray earned All-Ivy honorable mention as a rookie, starting all 17 games and notching two goals and three assists. Curtis fought through injuries in her second year as a starter, appearing in 10 games.

Mayora also battled the injury bug, appearing in seven games, while Warren played in 16 contests, starting five. Warren will miss the start of the season with an injury, while Kim Goh will bring a wealth of experience to the Harvard back line despite being just a freshman. Another rookie, Cynthia Tassopoulos, will handle the Crimson's goalkeeping duties.

With the athleticism and versatility on the roster, many field players will end up playing multiple positions. Wherever they end up, Caples is confident the pieces will add up to a competitive lineup.

"There's a good foundation without any weak parts," Caples said. "The whole is going to be very solid; that's what we're most excited about."

The Crimson opens its home schedule Sept. 12 against Bryant and begins Ivy League play a week later at Yale.

Photo of Elizabeth Goodman-Bacon courtesy DSPics.com