VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s field hockey team have a new-look roster for 2018 despite graduating just one player from last season. The Vikes will go head-to-head with their biggest rivals, the UBC Thunderbirds, this weekend, Sept. 15-16, in Vancouver. Both games push back at 11:00 a.m. and Saturday will mark the first game of the Legends Cup series for field hockey.

The Vikes boast nine first-year additions, while head coach Lynne Beecroft will be entering her 35th season alongside assistant coach Krista Thompson who enters her 22nd season. In her time Beecroft has guided the Vikes to an impressive 13 Canada West championships, as well as all 11 U SPORTS national titles that the program has won.

“I am looking forward to the youth, enthusiasm and skill that our first-year class will bring this season,” said Beecroft, whose roster of 21 has 14 players in either their first or second year.

Up front the Vikes will have two lethal additions in Kitchener, Ont. native Sam McCrory and North Vancouver’s Erin Dawson. Both are members of the Field Hockey Canada Junior Develop Squad (JDS), while McCrory also had her first taste on the senior national team this summer, scoring six goals in her debut against Guatemala.

In the midfield, the Vikes will add Stefanie Sajko and Cara Butler, two local recruits, as well as Anne-Sophie Hannes of Germany.

“Stef and Cara grew up watching the Vikes and they trained in our Rising Stars program from a young age,” added Beecroft. “So far, they have both transitioned well into university level hockey and for Cara she is following in her family’s footsteps.”

Butler’s older sister Elise was a standout Vikes soccer player who helped guide her team to a U SPORTS fifth-place finish in 2017, also Elise’s fifth and final year. Cara and Elise’s parents Keith and Sue both ran cross country and track for the Vikes, while Keith was a fixture in the cross country and track program’s coaching staff in previous years.

Also keeping it a family fair is first-year defender Judy Cristante, whose mother Kolette was a Vikette field hockey player who helped the Vikes win national championships in 1987 and 1989.

Despite the large incoming class, the Vikes still boast experience throughout their squad including Lindsay Cole, one of five fifth years on the team, who was named a 2017 Canada West All-Star and the U SPORTS Gail Wilson Award winner as the most outstanding contributor. Delaney Booker, Stefanie Langkammer, Kristina Walters-Shumka and Jenna Dhillon round out the senior class on the squad.

The team also boasts the 2017 Canada West Rookie of the Year, Anna Mollenhauer, and the 2016 Canada West Rookie of the Year, Emily Wong.

“Anna has really grown over the summer with her experience training and competing with the JDS,” said Beecroft of the St. Michael’s University School graduate. “Anna played in a 6-Nations tournament in Belgium and trained heavily throughout the summer. She will definitely play a key role for us in the back field.”

“Emily will also be important for us because of her ability to read the game. She has excellent distribution skills and can intercept a lot of passes to create counter-attack opportunities for us.”

With the departure of lone fifth year keeper Larissa Piva, second-year Vike Robin Fleming will be the top net minder for the Vikes.

“We would like to build our game around speed this year,” added Beecroft. “We also have to make sure we are focusing on attacking and defending as a group.”

This weekend will also bring out the best in both teams as it is the field hockey opener for the Legends Cup series. The Thunderbirds will be more than eager to build on UBC’s current 4-0 lead.

The T-Birds will undoubtedly rely on fifth-year keeper Rowan Harris, also a member of Canada’s national team program, as well as JDS athletes Sara Goodman and Hannah Eborall in the back line, Margaret Pham up front and Jordyn Faiczak and Thora Rae in the midfield. The team also adds first years Izzy Fraser, a JDS athlete out of Magee Secondary, and Alix Vanry, an attacker from West Vancouver Secondary.

This will also be the inaugural season for newly-appointed head coach Poonam Sandhu, a former T-Bird herself who won five national championships in her time and also played for the Canadian senior women’s national team.

The T-Birds will host the Vikes on Sept. 15-16 with both games starting at 11:00 a.m at Wright Field in Vancouver.