By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s field hockey team are set to kick-off their CIS campaign with their annual pre-season tour in the United States. The Vikes women will play NCAA competition Brown, Yale and Harvard between Aug. 29-30.
The Vikes women have been traveling to play their New England NCAA counter parts since 2009. Last season the team went undefeated with wins over Yale and Brown and a scoreless tie against Harvard. Head coach Lynne Beecroft, who enters her 32nd season, will expect similar results as she has little turnover on her roster.
“We lose three players this year, one of which was our fifth-year defender Lexi Veljacic,” said Beecroft, who also gains two local recruits. “We do add Alexis De Armond who, I believe, is the top recruit of all high schools right now. She has a hard hit, a great back-hand (shot) and is very versatile in positioning.”
De Armond, a Mount Douglas Secondary graduate, is no stranger to top-level competition entering her Vikes season fresh off an 11-day Junior National training camp, one of many she has been a part of for the past two years. Joining De Armond will be St. Michael’s University graduate and forward Jocelynne Charlton, niece of Olympian and former Vikette Nancy Mollenhauer.
Senior national team members and 2014 Canada West All-Stars Kathleen Leahy and Rosie Beale will return to anchor the midfield and defence line, respectively. The pair spent the summer training with the national squad as they prepared for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. Also returning is fourth-year forward Amanda Kurianowicz, the team’s lone CIS First Team All-Canadian in 2014.
“We have a lot of fourth year players and our strength could very well be our experience,” adds Beecroft who has eight players in fourth or fifth year. “With that experience comes a lot of previous team cohesion and I truly believe they care a lot about each other.”
Little changes to the line up means the returning defensive strengths of sisters Annie and Kristina Walters-Shumka will be a focal point for distribution. Fourth years Andrea Jones and Mei Lin Cheungwill be key in the midfield, while the speed and skills of Lindsay Cole and Lizzie Yates will provide a lot of depth up front.
“Our trip to Boston is really about reconnecting,” describes Beecroft, who has so far guided the V es to 11 CIS national titles. “The good thing is that lots of our players were in town over the summer to train but this trip will be about getting comfortable with each other both on and off the field.”
The team will gear up to play Brown on Aug. 29 at 11 a.m. ET, Yale on Aug. 30 at 11 a.m. ET a rd on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. ET.
“We don’t know too much about these teams as they are always changing but they all have quality leadership and staff running their programs,” said Beecroft about her upcoming opponents. “Yale has a new as t coach this year and Harvard’s coach works with the USA national team program. Regardless, these teams will be competitive.”
The work definitely starts now for the Vikes as although their Canada West campaign doesn’t gets underway until Sept. 19, Beecroft hopes the work will be done to quality for the Victoria-hosted national championship.
“It’s a bonus and also a curse being hosts of nationals,” Beecroft added about ent taking place on the Ring Roadcampus from Nov. 5-8. “We, as coaches, want to challenge our team to earn a spot at nationals and that means starting off on the right foot now.”
The Vikes will play a two-round round-robin in Canada West play with Calgary and UBC before preparing for the national championship where the team will vye for the program’s 12th national title, last won in 2008 on home turf.
The Vikes open regular season play against rivals UBC on Sept. 19 and 20 at 11 a.m. at UVic’s water-based field hockey pitch. For ticket information visit govikesgo.com/tickets2015-16 Canada West Season Preview
2014-15 CW Regular Season Record: 5-1-2 (2nd)
2014-15 CW Playoff Record: N/A
2014-15 CIS Record: 2-1-1 (Bronze)
Last CW Title/Total CW Titles: 2013 / 16
Last CIS Title/Total CIS Titles: 2008 / 11
Number of new players: 2
Key Recruits: Alexis De Armond (D/M /Victoria, BC/Team BC); Jocelynne Charlton (F/Victoria, BC/St. Michael’s University School)
Number of departing players: 3
Key Losses: Alexis Veljacic (D/5), Marin Davidson (F/3), Emily Bennett (M/2)
Key returnees: Kathleen Leahy (D/M/Victoria, BC/Team Canada); Rosie Beale (D/Victoria, BC/Team Canada); Amanda Kurianowicz (F/Calgary, AB/Team Alberta)