PRINCETON, N.J. -- The 33rd season of Ivy League field hockey gets underway this weekend with a busy slate of non-conference games for the League’s eight teams. Seven of the teams begin their seasons with games on Friday, while Yale waits until Saturday to play its opener. All told, the Ivies will play 15 games over the weekend.
Friday’s action includes Dartmouth playing host to Sacred Heart as part of day one of the Big Green Classic, Penn opening its year at tenth-ranked American and Columbia getting the season started at 18th-ranked Drexel. On Saturday, Yale’s season opens with the Bulldogs playing host to 20th-ranked Stanford.
Sunday’s highlights include seventh-ranked Princeton playing at No. 10 American, and Harvard and Cornell hosting Lafayette and Lock Haven, respectively, in a pair of home openers. Brown opens its home slate on Sunday as well versus UC Davis.
Last season, the Ivy teams combined to go 6-2 in season openers, including wins by Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. In 2007, 2008 and 2009 the Ivies went 2-6, 4-4 and 4-4, respectively, in their openers, giving the League an overall mark of 16-16 over the past four seasons. Harvard and Princeton carry three-game season-opening win streaks into the 2011 season.
The Princeton Tigers enter the season ranked seventh in the preseason National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFCA) poll and will be looking to claim a seventh consecutive Ivy title - and at least a share of 17 of the last 18 League titles. For the third consecutive season, Princeton won the 2010 crown with a perfect 7-0 mark in League play.
Yale and Cornell tied for second last season with 5-2 Ivy League records and each squad returns a lot of talent, led by 2010 Co-Rookies of the Year Hannah Balleza of Cornell and Georgia Holland of Yale. Last season Balleza was the Big Red’s second leading scorer with 10 goals and an assist for 21 points, including 11 points in Ivy play. Holland started all 17 games for Yale in 2010 and notched 14 points on four goals and six assists. In seven Ivy contests, Holland had two goals, including a game winner, and two assists for six points.
Both first and second team All-Ivy goalkeepers from 2010 are slated to return to their respective cages in 2011 meaning goalkeeper should be a position of strength across the League. Cornell senior Alex Botte, who earned first team All-Ivy honors in 2010, returns after posting 11 wins in her first season as a fulltime starter. She also posted a 1.77 goals-against average to go along with a .726 save percentage. Second team selection Cynthia Tassopoulos returns for her junior campaign at Harvard. Last season in Ivy play, Tassopoulos ranked second in the League in save percentage (.754) and third in saves (43).
On the individual level, the League’s stable of returning stars extends beyond the goal cage. Dartmouth’s Kelly Hood, a senior, and Columbia’s Gabby Kozlowski, a junior, will look to pace their respective offensive attacks. Both unanimous first team All-Ivy selections from a season ago, Hood recorded 18 goals and three assists for 39 points, including six goals in Ivy play. Kozlowski exploded on the offensive side of the field as a sophomore, setting Columbia’s single season record for goals in a season (16) while adding two assists for 34 points. She netted seven goals and 16 points in Ivy play.
Leslie Springmeyer, Brown’s leading scorer from a season ago, will be back to lead the Bears’ offense. And honorable mention All-Ivy selection in 2010, Springmeyer enters her final season ranked second all-time at Brown in career goals (29) and career points (76).
The Penn Quakers have a young squad that features eight freshman and six sophomores but will have seniors Kirstin Snyder and Kieran Sweeney to lead the team. Snyder is the team’s leading returning scorer from 2010 (seven points), while goalkeeper Sweeney has made 24 starts over the past two seasons.
Princeton, an NCAA quarterfinalist for the third consecutive season in 2010, is looking to claim its 20th Ivy title this season. The Tigers will be without the services of their four first team All-Ivy selections from a season ago, but do welcome back second team honoree Amanda Bird as well as honorable mention selections Erin Jennings and Alyssa Pyros.
Friday, September 2
1 - Cornell vs. Villanova, 4 pm
2 - Sacred Heart at Dartmouth, 2 pm
Brow at New Hampshire, 3 pm
Penn at #10 American, 5 pm
Harvard at Holy Cross, 6 pm
#7 Princeton at Bucknell, 6 pm
Columbia at #18 Drexel, 7 pm
Saturday, September 3
#20 Stanford at Yale, 11 am
Sunday, September 4
UC Davis at Brown, 11 am
Lafayette at Harvard, 1 pm
Columbia at La Salle, 1 pm
#7 Princeton at #10 American, 2 pm
Yale at Quinnipiac, 2 pm
Lock Haven at Cornell, 2 pm
2 - Longwood at Dartmouth, 2 pm
1 – at The Training Center (Spring City, Pa.)
2 - Big Green Classic (Hanover, N.H.)