Friday, September 23, 2011

Flying Dutchwomen field hockey team hopes to make history against royal Monarchs

Most coaches preparing a team for a game against the top-ranked team in the country have a boilerplate of quotes and thoughts about the task ahead of them: It’s only one game. We’re not viewing it as any bigger or smaller than any other game. It’s a good opportunity but not that big a deal. We can’t look ahead and think about what it might mean to win such a game.

But Kathy DeAngelis isn’t sticking to the script as the Flying Dutchwomen field hockey team heads to Old Dominion to take on the no. 1 Lady Monarchs in the CAA opener for both schools at 5 p.m. This IS a big game. This IS a big deal. And winning it WOULD mean a lot for both the field hockey program and Hofstra.

“That’s really exciting for our program to be playing the number one team in the nation,” DeAngelis said by phone yesterday from Virginia. “The opportunity to say hey, we’re playing the number one team in the nation—I feel that excitement, it’s in the air everywhere.

“We can leave a mark—obviously for us to win this game but [it] would also be a huge, tremendous win for the university.”

No matter where Old Dominion is ranked, DeAngelis always looks forward to facing the Monarchs, who have certainly earned the moniker in field hockey. Old Dominion has won a record nine national championships and Lady Monarchs coach Beth Anders is the sport’s all-time winningest coach with 532 victories in 29 seasons at the helm.

Even by their lofty historical standards, though, the Lady Monarchs are putting together some kind of season. Old Dominion is 8-0 with seven wins against top 10 teams and has already toppled a pair of no. 1s in Maryland and North Carolina. The win over the Tar Heels last Friday catapulted Old Dominion to no. 1 in the polls for the first time in nine years. (For more on Old Dominion’s hot start, check out this story about the Lady Monarchs from the Daily Press in Virginia)

“The Old Dominion game is really the highlight of our year every year,” DeAngelis said. “Wherever they are ranked, we know that they are a tremendous team and we have great respect for their program.”

As respectful as the Dutchwomen are of Old Dominion, they’ll take the field this afternoon feeling confident and well-prepared. Hofstra, which was picked eighth in the nine-team CAA in the preseason poll of coaches, has begun to get some attention nationally thanks to a four-game winning streak that includes a win over then-no. 16 Albany as well as a potent offense that ranks fifth in the nation with 44 goals—more than the Dutchwomen scored all of last season. That creates a matchup of strengths against Old Dominion, which has outscored its opposition 27-8.

Since opening the season with a 7-1 loss at fourth-ranked UConn, the Dutchwomen have scored at least three goals in every game but one and have lost three times by a total of four goals, including an overtime defeat to Stanford, which is currently ranked eighth in the nation. Last week, the Dutchwomen had the CAA’s co-player of the week in senior forward Genna Kovar as well as the rookie of the week in freshman forward Jonel Boileau.

“They have exceeded, personally, my expectations,” DeAngelis said. “Scheduling is definitely part of that, but it’s also really exciting we’ve scored that many goals. We have so many players that can put the ball in the net and that makes us very dangerous.”

In addition, while Hofstra is 1-8 all-time against Old Dominion, 13 of the 27 players on this year’s team were on the 2009 team that upset then-no. 16 Old Dominion, 6-5, in Norfolk in 2009. And the Dutchwomen were competitive in falling 3-1 last year to a Lady Monarchs team that ended up winning the CAA and advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals.

A win today would not only be the biggest ever for the field hockey team but also one of the most notable achievements for any program at Hofstra. Only three Flying Dutch squads have ever beaten the nation’s no. 1 team—something DeAngelis plans to remind her team about in the pre-game meeting.

“To be able to play against [Old Dominion] in conference play is just huge,” DeAngelis said. “But for us, that definitely creates interest knowing that we have a chance to create some history here. I can kind of use that [today].”

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