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By Natalie Wise, Vikes Communications

VICTORIA –  The first leg of the University of Victoria Women’s Field Hockey Canada West campaign will see the Vikes take on the Calgary Dinos Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 with both games taking place at 12:00 p.m. in Calgary.

Three-time Canada West Coach of the Year Lynne Beecroft is entering her 29th season as head coach of the University of Victoria Vikes women’s field hockey team. This year’s team boasts eleven fresh faces and with the loss of five graduating players, the Vikes will look to their returning players to lead the young squad to a CIS Championship seeding. 

Last season, the Vikes went 2-8-2, finishing fourth in the Canada West and one spot shy of qualifying for the CIS national championship. With two Canada West berths for this year’s CIS Championship on the line, the UVic women are looking to best last season’s record and book a ticket to the Toronto-hosted tournament.

This year’s rookie-laden group will test Beecroft’s experience as she approaches almost three decades at the helm of one of the most successful varsity sports programs at UVic. Beecroft has a record 26 CIS Championship appearances and has earned an impressive 11 McCrae Cups over the course of her career with the Vikes.

Among the key returnees are fourth-year defensive veterans Kyla Kirby (Victoria, BC), Carly Krestanovich (Surrey, BC) and Chelsea Morton (Duncan, BC). In 2010, Kirby was named a CIS All-Canadian and Canada West All-Star and in combination with Krestanovich, will provide the Vikes with a formidable back line.

Despite the lack of returnees, the Vikes have several strong recruits fresh from competition in July’s Under-18 national championships. Freshmen to watch will be goalkeeper Sheriden Goodmanson (Victoria, BC) and defender Annie Walters-Shumka (Victoria, BC), both were members of the B.C. team that captured the gold medal. Midfielders Andrea Jones (Vancouver, BC) and Amanda Kurianowicz (Calgary, AB), alongside forwards Amanda Watson (North Vancouver, BC) and Mei Lin Cheung (Kamloops, BC) competed on additional teams at the tournament and will provide strength on the Vikes’ attacking lines.

After their first weekend of Canada West games, the Vikes will see a boost to their roster as junior national team member Kathleen Leahy (Victoria, BC) will have returned from competing in the Junior Pan American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico. Although recruited for the 2011 team, Leahy was injured for the duration of the season and has not yet competed for the Vikes. Leahy has been training with the junior national team and her international experience will prove to be a valuable asset for the young Vikes side.

The UVic squad split their pre-season Boston tour 2-2 as they downed Harvard and Brown University while losing narrowly to Yale University and Dartmouth College. Walters-Shumka and Fisher both pocketed two goals in the four-game series.

The Vikes will look to build upon their preseason success as they begin Canada West competition on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16, travelling to Alberta to take on the University of Calgary Dinos. The Dinos are coming off of their best season in program history as they won their first-ever CIS Championship medal in 2011, earning silver on home turf in their first tournament appearance since 1997. Both games will take place at 12 p.m. PST.