HARRISONBURG, Va., Aug. 23, 2012 – Coming off an appearance in the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals a year ago, the James Madison field hockey team opens up its 2012 season with a pair of games on the campus of Kent State over the weekend. On Friday, JMU plays a neutral site match against Vermont at 2:30 p.m. before closing out the road trip on Sunday at 12 p.m. against Kent State.
The Dukes were picked to finish fourth in the eight-team CAA this year after going 9-10 overall and 4-4 in league play last season. They return a young, but experienced team that features eight starters and 14 letterwinners coming back. Of the 26 players on the roster 19 are listed as either a freshman or a sophomore, including 11 true freshman and one redshirt freshman.
Madison returns 69-percent of its goals scored from last season and 83-percent of its assists.
Leading the way amongst returning players is 2012 Preseason All-CAA picks in senior midfielder Jenna Taylor (Midlothian, Va./James River) and redshirt freshman forward Taylor West (Princess Anne, Md./Pocomoke). Taylor was third on team in goals with three and points with 10 as a junior and was named First Team All-CAA for her efforts. She added four assists to finish with the second-most on the team. West appeared in just three games in 2011, but was still named to the CAA All-Rookie team after finishing with a team-best six goals and 13 points. In her only conference action of the season, West finished with a hat trick against Drexel.
Other notable returners for JMU include senior midfielder Auburn Weisensale (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) who is the team’s active leader in goals scored with 10 as well as redshirt junior back Sam Smiertka (Townsend, Del./St. Thomas More) who missed the entire 2011 season with an injury. Redshirt junior forwards Rachel Wein (Perryville, Md./Perryville) and Courtney Versfeld (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe/Dominican Convent) combined to score five goals a year ago.
One area the Dukes need to find a replacement is in goal where Margo Savage (Virginia Beach, Va./Princess Anne) handled a majority of the work of the previous two seasons. Junior Stephanie Tarafas (Suffolk, Va./Nansemond River) is the only one of Madison’s three goalies to have seen any NCAA action. She has appeared in 10 games, starting four, but played just 445 minutes, 50 second in goal. Sophomore Hannah George (Virginia Beach, Va./Kellam) and freshman Lena Wimmert (Bergisch Gladbach, Germany/Lise-Meitner Gymnasium) are the two other candidates in net.
Last season was the only the second time in Head Coach Antoinette Lucas’ eight season’s that JMU has failed to win its opening game of the season. Overall, the Dukes are 6-2 in season openers under Lucas and 12-3 during the opening weekend of play.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
The Catamounts were picked to finish sixth in the America East this season after going 6-11 overall and 0-5 in conference a year ago. They have lost their last four season openers, dating back to 2008 and were just 2-7 away from home last season.
Vermont returns two of its top three goals scores from the 2011 team, including Colleen Slaughter who finished with a team-best eight goals and 16 points. Taylor Silvestro started all 17 games and was third on the squad with three goals and eight points. Also back is 2010 All-America East Second Team Selection Alana Izzo who missed all of 2011 with an injury.
In goal, Stephanie Zygmunt started all 17 games last year, going 6-11 with a 2.73 goals against average. She maded 164 saves and posted one shutout on the year.
Head Coach Nicki Houghton enters her 15th season at the helm for Vermont. She owns a 83-174 career record with the Catamounts.
The Golden Flashes went 8-13 last season and 5-5 in the Mid-American Conference on their way to reaching the MAC Championship game. This season they were picked to finish second behind defending champion Ohio.
Julia Hofman is team’s top returning scorer, finishing her rookie campaign in 2011 with seven goals and three assists for 17 points. Also back is junior Rebecca Lee who scored seven goals and two assists for 16 points. Junior Alyssa McFerren led the team with 11 assists last season, adding a goal for 13 points. Kent State must find a way to replace the production of Debbie Bell who finished her senior season with 21 goals and five assists for 47 points.
In goal, sophomore Jahna Jordan returns after playing every minute in net a year ago. She went 8-13 with a 2.91 goals against average. She posted 106 saves and added a .624 save percentage in over 1,500 minutes in net.
Kathleen Wiler is in her seventh season as the head coach of the Golden Flashes. She owns a 71-57 career record.
JMU owns a 9-2 career record against this weekend’s opponents, going 8-2 all-time against Kent State and 1-0 against Vermont. The only meeting between the Dukes and Catamounts occurred on a neutral field in Storrs, Conn., in 1984. Madison won the game 5-0.
JMU has won five straight against Kent State, dating back to 2005. It’s a stretch that also includes true road wins over the Golden Flashes in 2006 and 2009. The last meeting between the teams occurred in 2010 with JMU taking a 4-0 victory in Harrisonburg.
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