Skyhawks open season against pair of top three teams in Pennsylvania this weekend
Junior Kacie Smith is the reigning NFHCA East Region Player of the Year and leads the Skyhawks into the 2017 season. (PHOTO BY Jan Volk/SportsPix)
EASTON, Mass. (September 1, 2017) – The Stonehill College field hockey program is ranked No. 5 in the Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division II preseason poll, heading into its season-opening trip to Pennsylvania this weekend.
Stonehill and Northeast-10 Conference rival LIU Post are tied for No. 5 in the preseason national poll with 139 points. Reigning NCAA Division II National Champions Shippensburg (Pa.) University holds the preseason No. 1 ranking with 218 points and 14 of 23 first place votes, followed by No. 2 East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University (156 points), with one first place vote, and No. 3 Millersville (Pa.) University (146), with three first place votes. The Skyhawks open their 2017 season with road games at Millersville on Saturday (noon) and East Stroudsburg on Sunday (1 p.m.).
Saint Anselm College is ranked No. 4 (142), with three first place votes, while West Chester (Pa.) University is No. 7 with the remaining two first place votes. In all, Stonehill will face six teams appearing in the NFHCA's preseason national pool this season, with the Skyhawks, LIU Post and Saint Anselm joined in the top ten by Merrimack College (No. 9) and Adelphi University (No. 10).
Stonehill head coach Susan Ciufo, entering her third season at the helm, returns 17 letterwinners, including eight starters, from the 2016 squad which posted a 14-6 record overall, including 9-3 in NE10 play to finish in a three-way tie for second in the regular season standings. The Skyhawks, ranked No. 2 in the NE10's preseason coaches' poll, earned an NCAA Tournament bid for the fourth straight year and eighth time in program history overall.
Junior Sara Freedman anchors the Skyhawks defense once again in the cage. (PHOTO BY Andrew Katsampes)
Junior All-America forward Kacie Smith (Norwood, Massachusetts/Norwood), the reigning Longstreth/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) East Region and NE10 Player of the Year, leads Stonehill's list of returnees after leading the Conference with 22 goals and 49 points last season, ranking second nationally for both, scoring a team-high seven gamewinning goals and dishing out five assists. She enters the 2017 season ranked sixth in program history with 36 career goals and seventh with 84 points, adding 12 assists in 41 career games played over her first two seasons with the Skyhawks.
Smith will be supported offensively by classmate Carly Andersen (Cheshire, Connecticut/Canterbury School), who had a breakout year last fall with eight goals and an assist for 17 points. Senior Alexandria Sylvia (Brockton, Massachusetts/Brockton) dished out a team-high seven assists to go with five goals for 17 points last year, while classmate Alexandra Dillon (Canton, Massachusetts/Canton) chipped in with five assists for the Skyhawks.
Junior goalkeeper Sara Freedman (Hopkinton, Massachusetts/Hopkinton), a second team All-NE10 selection last fall, played all 1,405 minutes in the Stonehill cage a year ago and ranked seventh in the Conference with a 1.49 goals against average, to go with a .803 save percentage (6th NE10), while averaging 6.1 saves per game (3rd). She will be aided defensively by Dillon and junior MacKenzie Greenberg (Mendon, Massachusetts/Hopedale), two returning starters on the Skyhawks backline.
Rounding out Stonehill's returning starters are seniors Alexandra Gerew (Harrisville, Rhode Island/Pomfret School) and Hannah Gifford (Goffstown, New Hampshire/Goffstown), while sophomore Michaela Antonellis (Watertown, Massachusetts/Watertown) also saw significant time during her first collegiate season.
Following its season-opening trip this weekend to Millersville and East Stroudsburg, Stonehill will host American International College for a non-conference matchup for its home-opener at W.B. Mason Stadium on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Skyhawks NE10 opener is Wednesday, September 20, at rival Bentley University at 6 p.m.
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