Field hockey looks to momentum from last season as it faces top-ranked opponents this weekend

Aug. 27, 2015, 1:02 p.m.

With the start of its season on Friday, No. 6 Stanford field hockey is looking to build upon its most successful season in program history, in which it earned its first NCAA Tournament victory, notched a 19-3 record and reached a program-high No. 3 ranking for three consecutive weeks.

Stanford must compete at the highest level from the start, taking on NCAA runner-up Syracuse and NCAA quaterfinalist Duke in its first two games of the season.

Not only does the beginning of the 2015 season bring some of the hardest competition the Cardinal will face this year, but it also marks the team’s debut in a new conference.

Stanford is now part of the America East Conference along with previous NorPac members California, Pacific and UC Davis. These four West Coast teams join returning members Albany, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and UMass-Lowell. Stanford was picked to win the West Division of the conference in the annual preseason coaches poll.

Having lost an experienced senior class, including NorPac Offensive Player of the Year Alex McCawley, who last season notched 34 points off of a team-best 15 goals, the Cardinal’s underclassmen and newly-emerging players will bring new strengths and styles to the team.

“[The team is] younger and less experienced, but [has] open and adaptable minds to new structures and new ways of playing the game,” said senior defender Jessica Chisholm, one of the key returners to the Cardinal backfield who will bring a lot of spark and energy on defense.

“Speed up the sides and up front [in addition to] attacking unpredictability and risk taking” are what make this team extremely dangerous with the ball, according to Chisholm.

This opening weekend will set the tone for the season and “replicate a Final Four atmosphere,” explained senior attacker Lauren Becker.

Senior Lauren Becker (above) notched 20 points last season on 10 goals and was placed on the NorPac All-Conference Second Team. She will be joined by fellow senior Clemence Couteau, who appeared in all 22 of the team’s games in 2014, on the Cardinal’s front line of attack. (DAVID BERNAL/

“It’s somewhere the team has never been before and it’s important to come out strong,” Becker said.

Becker, who notched 10 of the team’s 54 goals last season, will be a critical player on the Cardinal attack in 2015. She is another one of the six seniors that will play a major role in leading the young and quick team to success.

Along with Becker, the other Stanford seniors, such as attacker Clemence Couteau and midfielder Maddie Secco, will lead the team during its opening weekend and will be relied upon to create opportunities on goal throughout the season.

Secco took time off after last season to compete on the Canadian Women’s National Team. She has been on the national team for almost five years and has earned 66 caps. She will bring poise and experience to the youthful Cardinal midfield. Secco was also the third-leading scorer last season with six goals and led the team with eight assists.

On defense, Stanford will look to two very experienced players, Chisholm and senior goalie Dulcie Davies.

Davies, the captain of the defense and a four-year starter, let in on average less than one goal a game during the 2014 season (0.82).

In front of her will be Chisholm, who is another returning starter. Not only is Chisholm an exceptional defender, but she is also a major contributor on short corners. She scored five goals last season as a hitter on the corner offensive unit.

Senior Jessica Chisholm (above) not only contributes as a defender, but she also is part of the unit that takes short corners. She had four game-winning goals last season and scored five overall. (KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/

This weekend in particular, the Cardinal defense will have a formidable challenge against the Orange offense, who scored on average over three times per game last season.

Syracuse will be led by senior attacker Emma Russell, who was a NFHCA First Team All-American in 2014 and enters her final season six goals shy of surpassing the all-time goals record at Syracuse.

By her side will be midfielder Alyssa Manley, a standout senior with tons of experience. She has been named a first and third team All-American and returns for her final year after spending the summer with the U.S. National Team at the Pan Am Games, where the team won a gold medal.

While the Orange will bring a wealth of experience and international skill and a tradition of success, the Cardinal’s spark-plug offense and solid defense may give the Orange some difficulty on the field.

Following its Friday opener, the Stanford team will face No. 5 Duke to wrap up the weekend.

Duke will have a strong team led by senior midfielder Aileen Johnson. She was a member of the NFHCA All-American second team, All-South Region first team and All-ACC first team in her 2014 season. Having led Duke with seven assists and ranking second on the team with six goals last season, Johnson will certainly be a key player for the Blue Devils on Sunday.

The opening weekend will be a great test of Stanford’s strength and will to win, as well as an opportunity for this young team to prove its value and own its No. 6 ranking.

The Cardinal will take on No. 4 Syracuse on Friday at 4 p.m. and No. 5 Duke on Sunday at 2 p.m. Both games will be played at home.

Contact Kristina Bassi at kbassi ‘at’

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