Field hockey starts off 0-4
Published: Monday, September 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 18:09
In spring of 2011, Delaware’s field hockey team hired Rolf van de Kerkhof as their new head coach.
After 12 years at Michigan State, Van de Kerkhof turned his attention to building the field hockey program at Delaware and in only his second year as the head coach, he said that this year’s squad has the talent to become a top-10 program.
“There are different resources available there [Michigan State] than there are here, but for [Delaware] field hockey this is a sleeping giant,” Van de Kerkhof said.
Last season, the Hens finished the year with a 9-11 record, leaving them tied for fourth place in the CAA. They were defeated in the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament last season, a result they are aiming to improve upon this year.
“We’re definitely hoping to win our conference,” senior midfielder/forward Nikki Onorato said. “Right now we all have that goal set and we’re really working hard out here and hoping we’ll get there.”
Freshman midfielder Michaela Patzner also thinks a CAA title is within reach for the Hens. She said she thinks the team can capture the CAA Championship.
In August, the CAA Preseason Coaches’ Poll ranked Delaware as the No. 5 team in the conference behind defending CAA Champions Old Dominion, Northeastern, Drexel and James Madison, but that doesn’t seem to faze Van de Kerkhof.
“I know as a team they have set a goal of winning the CAA and we’re going to do everything we can do as a coaching staff to accomplish that goal because there’s nothing better than winning a championship,” he said.
The Hens had a couple of chances to advance in the rankings during the past week with games against two of the nation’s top 20 teams. On opening night, Delaware faced the No. 14 team in the country, Boston University, and brought them to overtime. Onorato scored a goal with just over 19 minutes to go to give the Hens a 3-2 lead.
However, Boston’s Jacinda McLeod scored a penalty stroke with a minute and a half left in regulation to send the game to overtime and another goal five minutes into overtime to spoil the Hens’ home opener.
Patzner scored the first two goals for the Hens in her collegiate debut, becoming the first Hen to do so since All-American Casey Howard in 2005.
“I would love to continue playing so [well],” Patzner said when asked if she was surprised by the early impact she had on the team. “I also think I can do that because I played at a high level in Germany.”
Patzner headlined a large recruiting class for Delaware this year, which will introduce 11 freshmen to the squad. Van de Kerkhof said he was excited about the new players on the team.
Of the 11 newcomers, three hail from overseas–Patzner from Germany, Anne Van Stapele from the Netherlands and Megane Simons from Belgium, a feature that can be attributed to the international recruiting of Van de Kerkhof, who said he still has a lot of contacts all over the field hockey world.
Last year’s Delaware Player of the Year in high school, freshman Jackie Coveleski, scored her first career goal early in the Hens’ second match of the season against No. 19 University of Albany. The Hens then added another goal and extended their lead to 2-0 before the 12th minute.
However, Albany was able to tie it up early in the second half and send the game into overtime. Both squads were unable to score in either of the two 15-minute overtime periods, sending the game into a shootout. The Hens were unsuccessful on their first three attempts while Albany made all three, giving them the win.
Although the Hens have started this season 0-2, Van de Kerkhof is encouraged by the way his squad has been performing.
“We played two top teams and we played them pretty well,” he said. “We were in position to win both, but then you saw we were somewhat young, inexperienced and maybe a little anxious to finish it the way we should.”
The Hens’ schedule does not get much easier as they head north to play Central Michigan University and then No. 10 Michigan. Michigan is one of seven nationally-ranked opponents Delaware will have to face this season, but Van de Kerkhof is ready for the challenge.
“That’s why you play the games,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or who’s ranked where. Just play the games.”