By George Calver, Standard Correspondent
With 12 returning varsity players, and six returning starters — including sophomore goalie Molly Henne — coach Hannah Nichols has good reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season.
Sure, one could easily say that last year’s 1-13 record leaves a lot of room for improvement and optimism, but the Wasps’ win-loss tally did not reflect their performance on the field. Woodstock lost most of its games by less than two goals, including three one-goal losses to Otter Valley.
Second-year coach Nichols sees a tighter defense, including the elimination of the defensive lapses in the waning minutes of a game — something that plagued them last year — as a key to success this year.
“We are trying to instill more competitiveness and consistency in our own end,” Nichols said.
A focus on shooting is another element that Nichols, along with new assistant coaches Blake Wardwell and Hali Roy, are working on with the Wasps in preseason practice.
According to the head coach, the Wasps did not shoot enough in 2013, and did not fight hard enough for ball control in the offensive end.
Nichols also expects more toughness from her returning starters and from a group of sophomores who were getting their first taste of varsity field hockey as freshmen last year.
“We need to develop some fierce competition in front of their goalie,” Nichols said. “Last year’s freshmen are more confident and stronger.”
A major change this year will be the use of a 3-3-3 formation rather than the four forwards, two midfielders and three defensemen utilized last year.
Last fall’s four-forwards strategy was intended to give the Wasps more scoring punch, but it detracted from their defensive game and made the transition from defense to offense a lot tougher. And, it showed: the transition game sputtered, particularly when they were behind on the scoreboard.
To get more scoring “umph,” senior Holli Olson, a defensive stalwart last year, who also has a knack for scoring, will be moved to the front. She will also take on the co-captaincy along with senior Clancy Farrand.
“I’m really excited about playing as a forward,” said Olson of the coach’s move. She also expects an “awesome” season for the team. “We are a cohesive group and our skills are coming together.”
For her part, Farrand saw what she termed “improved team dynamics” as one of the principal difference from the 2013 team.
“Last year we had a lot of seniors and freshmen, and a new system under a new coach, and we had some problems communicating,” she said.
Newcomer Kallan Picone, a junior transfer from Pennsylvania, has looked sharp in practice, and should fit in well with returning starters Lily Doton, Paitra Martin, Megan Dalton, Olson and Farrand.
Sophomore returnees Lily D’Anna, Erika Gebhardt, Mariah Luce, and Sarah Yates will also be vying for starting roles.
Henne who had an outstanding rookie season will return as the starting goalie, and will be backed up by freshman Emma Walker.