After losing seven starters from last fall and having only five upperclassmen on the roster, many would assume the Penn field hockey team views the upcoming season as a time to rebuild. But the Quakers themselves perceive this year as an opportunity to prove those people wrong. "This is not a rebuilding year, but a growing year," Penn coach Val Cloud said. "They'll just get better as the year goes on and they gain more experience." Coming off a 5-12 season plagued by injuries, the Quakers are looking to put last season's bad breaks behind and focus on the present. "We're definitely putting the past in the past and moving on," senior co-captain Amna Nawaz said. After last fall's season came to a close, offseason training began soon after in the spring. The Quakers conducted 12 practices and competed twice to work not only on skills needed during the game, but to build team chemistry. "I was told spring season was phenomenal in that the team grew more comfortable together," said Nawaz, who missed the training while spending the semester in Zimbabwe. With 11 newcomers, including 10 freshmen and one transfer, as well as 10 sophomores, the Quakers have a wealth of young talent that is looking to improve upon last year's sub-.500 mark. "This team is young, energetic and coachable," Cloud said. "There is a lot of talent, speed and skill here. We just have to prove it." In addition, the inexperience of the freshmen at the collegiate level does not worry Cloud as much as one might assume. "The level of play has escalated over the years; the freshmen come in prepared with skills that we used to have to teach them once they got here," Cloud said. "They're coming in as better players and have really stepped up." The veterans have also done their part in preparing for the upcoming season. "I'm really so happy with how the upperclassmen came back to preseason," Cloud said. "They're in good shape, and it shows. It tells me that they are committed to improving." Despite the Quakers' inexperience, the standards of play remain high. "I expect everyone to work hard, to know their role and do their part," junior co-captain Monique Horshaw said. Goaltending remains one of the question marks of the season, as the Quakers have no returning goalies from the 1999 season. For now, four rookies will vie for the starting position. "They're still competing for time," Cloud said. "They've absorbed so much from our goalkeeper coach [Gwen Alexander], who is one of the best in the country. I wish our goalie had more experience, but that will come with time." The Quakers lost four of their top five point scorers to graduation, leaving room for some of the younger players to fill those roles. "I've seen some great improvement by the forwards, and the veteran defense should offer some stability in the back," Cloud said. "My midfield is the strongest, although we need more experience. Like everything else, it's coming along." The Quakers face their first test against Philadelphia rival St. Joseph's tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Franklin Field. Last season, they lost to the Hawks, 3-2, in overtime. "This first game means a great deal because it sets the tone for the rest of the season," Nawaz said. The game will feature two very different styles of play -- the passing game of the Quakers versus the aggressive hit-and-chase style of St. Joe's. "They're very aggressive, especially in the circle, going to the ball," Cloud said. "They try to play off of their opponent's mistakes. The main thing I want my team to concentrate on is to play our game." Tomorrow's game should be a good early test for a young team that looks to only get better with experience and timeComments powered by Disqus
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