|First-year head coach Jill Dixon inherits a team with nine returning starters, including Rose Taylor, a projected four-year staple in the Scots' midfield.|
A new era of field hockey commences at The College of Wooster on Sept. 1, as the team plays its first game under first-year head coach Jill Dixon. Dixon's hopeful the Fighting Scots can build off the momentum from last year, and combined with a fresh start, return to their winning ways (12 national championship tournament appearances, 8 conference championships, top-15 in all-time Div. III wins).
"We're looking to continue to honor the Wooster field hockey tradition, while building in a new direction," summed up Dixon. "We're looking to push the student-athletes to go places this team hasn't been in a while. Some of the things that are pivotal for that are ownership of the team, the season, and taking charge of everything the student-athletes are doing on and off the field."
Dixon has plenty of experience back in the fold to start to mold the program in the direction of her coaching philosophies, as the Scots have eight field players and the starting goalkeeper back from a 2017 team that finished in fifth-place in the North Coast Athletic Conference.
"I think there's a lot of talent on the team," said Dixon. "We'll be looking to fill in players who are going to create depth on the field. That might be moving some of the returners around a little bit, but we're really going to focus on playing to everyone's strengths. I think new team, new dynamic, some people's roles may change slightly, but we're really looking at the tactical component of the game and building on that."
Offensively, Wooster's 2017 goal total (47) marked the highest since 2013, and the Scots top four scorers are back in the fold, including senior Erika Womack, who was an all-region selection last year.
"Everyone on the field really looks to Erika for the spark, both in what she's doing with the ball and what she's doing off ball," shared Dixon. "She brings a lot of excitement and positivity to the game. Erika's been a great leader and captain for this team."
Who would emerge as the go-to scorer was perhaps one of the biggest questions the team had at this point last year due to heavy graduation losses in the attacking end, but rising sophomores Caitlyn O'Connor and Sydney Schuster exploded onto the scene as two of the Scots' top offensive weapons, and went on to combine for 16 goals as rookies.
"I'm excited to start working with them," said Dixon. "I think refining skills, including the midfield line into more of a team attack, where they are extremely supported up front, will allow our forwards to finish more plays this season."
Shifting to the midfield, the Scots have a lot of talent here, with four-year impact contributors Maeven Barry and Rose Taylor leading the way, and given Dixon's "changes to the formation," both could be counted on more heavily in other aspects of the game than in years past.
"We're looking for Maeven to secure the middle of the field, and be that pivotal player both with communication and directing the ball," said Dixon.
"We're also looking for new opportunities for Rose to shine," continued Dixon. "I really like what she's being doing with the team."
"They'll see a lot of changes this fall, just in terms of our overall tactical approach," shared Dixon. "Their roles are going to shift to be supportive in ways they might not have seen before. They are so open to change, moving forward, and taking this program to a different level, it's just going to keep building off that dynamic they have."
Junior Grace O'Leary and sophomore Sammi Pavlecic could potentially factor into more of a defensive-minded role than in the past. However, given O'Leary's past experience in the midfield, and Pavlecic's offensive firepower from last year, the Scots could have plenty of attacking power coming out of the backfield.
"I like Grace in the backfield," stated Dixon. "She generates a lot of attack coming out. Being able to use her quickness and stick skills to beat the opposition out of the backfield will be really important."
"I see Sammi bouncing between the backfield and the midfield," continued Dixon. "She's all over the place and does a lot of good things."
Junior Emma Hambright rounds out the returnees in the backfield.
In goal, rising sophomore Katie Shideler will be looking to build upon a season in which she finished second in the NCAC in save percentage and fifth in goals-against average.
"Katie's extremely excited for the season," said Dixon. "She's earned many honors, but nothing really gets to her. She's mentally strong. I'm excited for her to come back and re-hash with the defense."
Senior Lida LeVine gives Dixon another veteran at the goalkeeping position.
Wooster travels to New York for the opening weekend, where the Scots will take on Wells College (Sept. 1, 1 p.m.) and Elmira College (Sept. 2, 2 p.m.), prior to returning home to open league play against Ohio Wesleyan University on Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m.