ORIGINALLY WRITTEN NOV. 13
The bus ride home from Ewing was an all-too familiar one for the veterans of Rowan’s field hockey squad, who once again had their Division III Championship Tournament chances stripped away by conference rival The College of New Jersey.
TCNJ (18-1) earned the automatic qualifier with its 3-2 victory over the Profs, who finished 14-6 for a second straight season and were left out of the tournament seeding.
Although her season came to an end sooner than she hoped, Michelle Andre was encouraged by her first season as Rowan’s head coach.
“Anytime you have a transition like this you never know how things are going to go,” Andre said. “But, all things considered, I think it was a very positive experience. We had a lot of young players who performed at an extremely high level throughout the season, and of course we had our bumps along the road but once we really got going, we were a lot of fun to watch.”
Andre was able to match the success of her predecessor, Rowan Assistant Athletic Director Penny Kempf, in both overall and conference records from the previous season. She also made it just as far into the New Jersey Athletic Conference playoffs as Kempf’s 2014 squad, but played a much different game against TCNJ.
“Anytime we play TCNJ it’s a very intense game,” Andre said. “We had lots of opportunities throughout the game that we weren’t able to capitalize on, but the fact that we went down 3-0 and were never out of that game until the whistle blew, that to me is a testament to the character and fight of our players.”
Unfortunately for the head coach, the 2016 season will begin without three of her top five point-scorers in seniors Johanna James, Sam Browne and Marisa Marini; as well as defensive specialist Samantha Potoczak.
Senior Jenna Pressler, who was redshirted as a freshman and finished fourth on the team in scoring with 27 points, will return for a fourth season.
Andre recognizes that this will be a tough group to replace, but says she believes that she has players who are ready to step up and contribute in a big way.
“When you lose seniors, especially this group that has contributed so much in four years, it’s always hard,” Andre said. “There’s maturity there, there’s an expectation there and there’s leadership there. So it’s just a matter of finding the right players, and there are players on the bench that will step into those roles.”
One of those players is freshman standout Rachel Galante, who was third on the team in points with nine goals and 11 assists. Galante will likely be called upon a lot in 2016, but she says she’s up to the task.
“Its going to be weird not being a little freshman, but I’m really excited for next season,” Galante said. “And I think that we have the same level of intensity because the seniors left that behind. They really impacted our team this year, and it’s definitely going to carry over into next season.”
Galante will be moving into a unique leadership role: she says as a sophomore she will have an opportunity to impact next year’s recruiting class in ways that weren’t there for her this season.
“The upperclassmen kind of forget sometimes what its like to be a freshman coming in,” said Galante. “It’s intimidating at first so I’m just going to keep encouraging them until they find their place, because once you settle in, it’s way more enjoyable.”
Goalie Carly DeMarco, who will be entering her junior season, is another key player set to return for the brown and gold. She wrapped up 2015 with a 13-6 record and a .77 save percentage, which was a slight improvement from her 2014 campaign.
While a strong roster is there for Rowan to find similar success in 2016, Andre’s recruiting prowess will surely help fill any remaining holes in the lineup. She says that she already has an idea of what the 2016 class will look like, and is just waiting on confirmation with playoff season coming for high school teams.
“I want people that are high-level hockey players that want a Rowan education, and you have to work at that,” Andre said. “You have to work on finding girls that fit what you’re trying to do.”
With all the uncertainty that surrounds next season for the Profs, one thing remains the same: the girls will be hungry to get to the DIII tournament.
“You could tell that after that game they were hurt, and I think its only going to feed them going in to next year,” Andre said. “So this is just going to energize what these girls want to accomplish and how they want to finish.”
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