HARRISONBURG, Va., Nov. 2, 2011 – Winners of two straight, the fourth-seeded James Madison field hockey team opens play in the 2011 Virginia 529 Colonial Athletic Association Championships on Thursday as it takes on fifth-seeded Delaware at the Powhatan Sports Complex in Norfolk, Va., at 5 p.m.
JMU closed its season with wins over William & Mary (3-1) and Delaware (1-0) over the final two games to clinch the conference’s fourth seed. Old Dominion, ranked second in the week’s Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll, swept through the league at 8-0 and earned the top seed and the right to host. They await the winner of the JMU/Delaware game in a 12 p.m. game on Saturday in the semifinals. Second-seeded Northeastern plays the winner of Thursday’s other quarterfinal game between #3 Hofstra and #6 Towson (7:30 p.m.).
Senior goalkeeper Margo Savage (Virginia Beach, Va./Princess Anne) earned Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week honors on Tuesday after making seven saves in a shutout win over the Blue Hens last Friday to clinch the Dukes’ berth in the CAA Championships. She was also named as a participant in the NFHCA Division I Senior Game on Tuesday as one of eight CAA representatives.
Freshman midfielder Ysaline Nobels (Dion-Valmont, Belgium/College du Christ-Roi) tallied her fourth game-winning goal of the season against Delaware, tying her for the third-most game-winning goals by a freshman with Veerle Goudswaard (2001) and Tori Lindsey (2009). Freshman midfielder Dana Allaband (Elkton, Md./Rising Sun) is tied for the sixth-most assists by a freshman as she tied Goudswaard, Marjolein Blusse van Oud Alblas (1997) and Lauren Stefaniak (2004) with five.
The Dukes are returning to CAA Championship play as missing out on the tournament in 2010. In their last appearance in 2009, the Dukes were eliminated in the semifinals by Delaware in a battle of Top-16 ranked teams. Prior to the season, JMU won three consecutive conference championships, capped off by a perfect 8-0 record in 2008 that saw the team rise to as high as fourth in the national polls. Madison is 6-1 in tournament play dating back to 2006.
Savage and senior back Lindsay Cutchins (Suffolk, Va./Lakeland) are the only two players for JMU to have won a CAA Championships, while junior midfielders Jenna Taylor (Midlothian, Va./James River) and Auburn Weisensale (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) and junior back Sam Smiertka (Townsend, Del./St. Thomas More) all have played in an CAA Championship game before.
The Blue Hens went 1-1 last weekend, earning a win over VCU on Sunday to claim a spot in the CAA Championships after falling to Madison on Friday. It raised its record to 9-10 overall and 4-4 in the CAA. They are 3-4 away from home and 1-3 in conference games on the road.
Freshman Kelsey McKee leads the team with nine goals and 24 points. Three of her goals have been game-winning goals and she is a perfect 3-for-3 in penalty stroke attempts this season. Sophomore Casey Prettyman is second on the squad with six goals and 14 points while junior Carly Hecht and Kayla Schweitzer are tied for a team-best seven assists.
Noelle Diana has started all 19 games in goal for Delaware. She is 9-10 with two shutouts and a 2.76 goals against average. Diana has allowed 50 goals and turned aside 120 shots for a .706 save percentage. Sophomore Heather Hartman and freshman Hannah Pepper have each registered one defensive save to lead the team.
Head coach Rolf van de Kerkhof is in his first season as the Blue Hen head coach after being hired from Michigan State in December, 2010.He is just the sixth head coach in program history. In six seasons as a head coach he has compiled a 82-43 overall record.
JMU and Delaware have met 12 times dating back to 1999. The Dukes hold a slim 7-5 advantage in the overall series, including winning two straight and six of the last eight. The teams have only met once in the CAA tournament with Delaware winning 2-1 in 2009. Last season, the Dukes earned a 7-1 at Delaware and added a 1-0 win over the Hens last Friday.
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