New-look Vikes women’s field hockey set for 2014

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Sept 9,2014(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s field hockey team will have just eight games to prepare for qualification and competing in this year’s CIS national championship hosted in Toronto, Ont. Head coach Lynne Beecroft returns for her 31st year and will be on the hunt for her 12th national title.

The Vikes turnover a number of players from last season’s Canada West championship-winning team including two-time CIS All-Canadian and captain Kyla Kirby. Despite the loss in central midfield, the Vikes bolster a strong and versatile recruit class headlined by several members of the provincial team that won the Under 18 Canadian national championship this summer. Victoria’s Kristina Walters-Shumka, Lindsay Cole and Jenna Dhillon were members of that team and will be ones to watch, while fellow first yearsDelaney Booker (Richmond, B.C.) and Stefanie Langkammer (Duncan, B.C.) will also be critical contributors to the young Vikes team.

Last season the Vikes earned their first conference banner since 2002 after beating the UBC Thunderbirds 2-0 on home soil. Overall the Vikes held a 5-0-3 record to enter the Victoria-hosted CIS national championshi ranked second. The Vikes lost 4-1 in the gold-medal game to the UBC Thunderbirds, who had nine of their starters as current members of the senior national team.

This year nine Vikes of the 18-member team are in their third year with defender Alexis Veljacic (Coquitlam, B.C.) being the only senior player on the team.

“I don’t think I have ever had a team as versatile as this group,” said Beecroft, who was able to move players in all different positions throughout their pre-season tour in the USA. “Forwards can play mid, our mids can play defence and our defenders are scoring goals for us up front. It will certainly be a good thing to be able to move our players around and it might be difficult to defend against.”

In the backfield the Vikes boast third-year Claremont grad Rosie Beale (Victoria, B.C.), as well as second-year Lizzie Yates (Shawnigan Lake, B.C.), both known for their long-range distribution and strong tackling skills. Both defenders have also played stints on the forward line, with Yates tallying twice in pre-season matches against Yale and Brown University.

Pivoting the team in the middle will be central defender Annie Walters-Shumka (Victoria, B.C.), as well as midfielders Mei Lin Cheung (Kamloops, B.C.) and Andrea Jones(Vancouver, B.C.). The trio provides a solid combination of strength on the ball, speed and distribution.

Up front the Vikes will lean on the tenacity and scoring threats of forward Amanda Kurianowicz (Calgary, Alta.), who led the team with seven goals in 2013, as well as rookies Cole and Booker.

Kathleen Leahy (Victoria, B.C.), the lone Vikes member to currently register on the Canadian senior national team roster, will also be an important cog. The 2013 CIS All-Canadian and tournament all-star will rotate through the midfield and back line and is important in both offensive and defensive penalty corners.

Backstopping the Vikes will be keepers Sheriden Goodmanson and Larissa Piva. Piva, a former wrestler, shows great speed and strength transitioning between being on the ground and standing up, while Goodmanson’s quick reactions and ability to read the game were pivotal throughout the 2013 season.

In late August the Vikes went undefeated in their pre-season tour, beating both Yale and Brown, while tying Harvard.

“We started in the big Apple (for pre-season), then went to Boston, and this weekend we start our season in Calgary,” said Beecroft, who highlighted the A, B, C’s as a part of this year’s team theme. “When we look at the game we want to focus and start with the basics and then we will work our way from A to Z. We also need to have the players educating each other and know that everyone can step up and be a leader.”

Beecroft will also be able to utilize the experience of assistant coach Krista Thompson, in her 18th season with the Vikes, who recently returned from the 2014 XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as assistant coach with the Canadian senior national team. In addition, the Vikes benefit from the part-time coaching expertise of former team Canada and Vikes stand out Andrea Rushton.

The Vikes will have just four games against each of Calgary and UBC in the Canada West. With the removal of Alberta from the CIS in 2012, the Vikes have been left to play home and away series with the Dinos and T-Birds and only the top two qualify for the national championship. This year’s championship will be on the newly laid water-based pitch at the Varsity Blues campus, future home of field hockey for the 2015 Pan American Games next summer.

The Vikes will open their 2014 CIS campaign on the road with a double header against the Calgary Dinos on Sept. 13 and 14 at Hawkings Field. For more information visitgovikesgo.com/wfh.

SCOUTING VICTORIA VIKES

Key Returnees: D Alexis Veljacic, M Kathleen Leahy, F Amanda Kurianowicz, D Annie Walters-Shumka, D Alanna Macdonald, GK Sheriden Goodmanson
Key Additions: D Lizzie Yates, M/F Lindsay Cole, D Kristina Walter-Shumka, F Stefanie Langkammer, M Jenna Dhillon, F Delany Booker
Key Departures: M Kyla Kirby, F Emily Fisher, F Stefanie Hatch, F Kayleen Vander Ree

2013 CIS Tournament record: 2-2 (2nd)
2013 Conference Record: 5-0-3 (1st)
Last CW title: 2013
Last CIS title: 2008

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