LEWISTON, Maine -- A new season begins Saturday for the Bates field hockey team, who look to return to the NESCAC Championship with a well-balanced squad in 2012.
Bates' seasoned front line is anchored by senior captain Riley Kundtz (Chagrin Falls, Ohio), who led the Bobcats in scoring in 2011 with four goals and one assist, and fellow seniors Michelle Brady (Milton, Mass.) and Nicole Santosuosso (Canton, Mass.). Junior Polly Merck (Beverly Farms, Mass.), who scored the game-winning goal in Bates' season finale against Colby last season, joins the seniors on the front line, along with sophomore Caroline Falcone (New Canaan, Conn.) and first-year Shannon Beaton (West Newbury, Mass.).
"Our forward line has been looking very strong, and I'm anticipating things from them this year," said Wynn Hohlt, who enters her 15th season at Bates. "They are being dynamic, creative and aggressive, and that should pay dividends in terms of generating scoring opportunities."
Junior captain Sarah Warden (North Andover, Mass.) and junior Bridget Meedzan (Ipswich, Mass.) will be called upon to control the midfield for Bates. "Sarah has an unbelievable work rate and sees the field quite well. She will key in transitioning the ball from the defensive end as well as distributing," said Hohlt. "Bridget will also be primarily in the midfield, where we can better utilize her speed and vision."
Veteran stalwarts anchor the defense in senior Alie Philip (Simsbury, Conn.) and junior Lexie Carter (Saco, Maine), while three of the Bobcats' eight first-year players are competing for playing time on the back line. Two other rookies, Cristina Vega (Needham, Mass.) and Katie Knox (Bronxville, N.Y.), provide depth and competition at goalkeeper behind returning starter Becca Otley (Cumberland, Maine).
"Defensively, we have been very steady all through training, and that unit will be a key to our success this fall," said Hohlt, a former standout goalie at Williams College. "The goalkeepers have shown a tremendous work ethic, and it's great to have Becca back in goal. With a year of experience under her belt, she is a more mature goalkeeper and has grown into a true defensive leader in the backfield."
The Bobcats open the regular season at NESCAC foe Williams on Saturday at 11am (Video), where they'll look to repeat last year's result, a 1-0 win over the Ephs that featured a goal by Brady, an assist by Meedzan and an impressive shutout debut for Otley, in her first field hockey game at any level.
Following the opener at Williams, Bates has a non-conference date at Thomas College on Wednesday, Sept. 12, then hosts back-to-back NESCAC games that weekend, with Amherst coming to Campus Avenue Field on Sept. 15 at 11am (Video), and Trinity arriving on Sunday, Sept. 16 for another 11am start (Video).
"Competition will be fierce for time on the field, as everyone has been working really hard through the off-season and has stepped up their games," said Hohlt. "There is no tougher conference than the NESCAC, and we're looking forward to diving into conference play."