Rowan University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Kyle Phillippi
A year after finishing 15-7 and earning a trip to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament, the Rowan University field hockey team is planning on making a return to the postseason tournament in 2013. In order to do so, though, new leaders will have to emerge and younger players will have to excel in their new roles.
“It’s going to be a matter of finding the right combination to make us stronger,” said head coach Penny Kempf. “We do have a lot of talent on this team.”
Fortunately for the Profs, they’ll return their leading scorer from a year ago in forward Kellie Campbell. As a sophomore, Campbell (jr. Clark, NJ/Arthur L. Johnson) registered 39 points with 18 goals and three assists. Her efforts earned her New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) All-Conference first team honors.
“I’m expecting she’ll be right back up there again in points.” noted Kempf. “She’s one year older, more mature and more experienced. She’s stepping up into a leadership role and really good players play alongside which will help her be more successful.”
Up front, Campbell will be joined by Johanna James, Jenna Pressler, Courtney Aquino and Samantha Browne. In her freshman year, James (so. Gloucester City, NJ/Gloucester) was a key player off the bench for Kempf, appearing in 20 games. After missing last season, Pressler (fr. Medford, NJ/Shawnee) is expected to take on an integral part in Rowan’s attack. Browne (so. West Milford, NJ/West Milford) played in one game in her first season at Rowan but will play a much bigger role on the team in her second year. A first-year player, Aquino (fr. Hammonton, NJ/Hammonton) will have a chance to see playing time early on.
“James was one of the first player’s coming off the bench on the attack so she was already getting a lot of playing time last year,” stated Kempf. “Pressler is right up there for a starting position.”
In the midfield, Kempf is pleased to return Amy McKeever and Karlee Henderson. Both players will serve as team captains for the Profs. As a junior, McKeever (sr. West Deptford, NJ/West Deptford) finished third on the team with 18 points on six goals and six assists. Similarly, Henderson (jr. Elmer, NJ/Woodstown) added 16 points with six goals and four assists.
“Amy is a very talented player who always plays at a specific level and works hard,” said Kempf. “No one works harder than Karlee in the field and in practices. Off the field, she goes above and beyond to be a leader and she’s a very skilled player.”
McKeever and Henderson will have familiar faces playing besides them in the midfield in Marissa Marini and Jenna O’Sullivan. Marini (so. Wilmington, DE/Padua Academy) contributed with 12 points on two goals and a team-high eight assists in her freshman year. In her first year on the team, O’Sullivan (jr. Sicklerville, NJ/Timber Creek Reg.) started 21 of 22 games and registered 9 points with four goals and one assist. Emily Bucher (so. Gloucester City, NJ/Gloucester) also figures into the mix after appearing in 17 games as a freshman.
“Marini was one of the best all-around players last year as the center-midfielder,” added Kempf. “She’s one year older and more experienced and she’s stepping into a leadership role because she doesn’t have that freshman mentality. She’s more invested in the program.”
Defensively, the Profs will have to overcome the losses of two All-Conference honorees from a year ago in Kelsey O’Neill and Erin Bernat. Both players served as captains in 2012 and provided leadership on and off the field.
“They were all-everything to us,” remarked Kempf. “They were the epitome of a captain and of hardworking. I could not truly have asked for more from those two individuals so replacing them is the hard part.”
To replace their losses, Kempf will count on Aubrey Fisher, Erika Mecchella and a trio of newcomers in Alexis Mazzeo, Allison Engle and Jenna Filippoli in the backfield. In her sophomore season, Fisher (jr. Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) started every game and recorded two defensive saves. Likewise, Mecchella (jr. Gloucester, NJ/Gloucester) started all 22 games while scoring two goals. Mazzeo (fr. Glassboro, NJ/Glassboro) has impressed Kempf throughout the offseason and will see playing time throughout the season. Both Engle and Filippoli, who was an All-Conference first team selection her senior year of high school, will see action on the field in their first year.
“Mecchella is stepping up,” said Kempf. “Mazzeo is a first-year player and is adding something to our backfield. We have a strong freshman class who can push the returning players.”
In the cage, Rowan returns Steph Columbo and Shara Baldi. After playing behind Jen Goldberg last season, Columbo (sr. Moorestown, NJ/Camden Catholic) went 4-2 with a 2.41 goals against average in 12 games played. Baldi (so. Wayne, NJ/Wayne Hills) didn’t see any action her first year but is expected to compete for time in net. First-year players Kim Pyhel (fr. Chatham, NJ/Chatham) and Maura Trotman (fr. Haddonfield, NJ/Haddonfield Mem.) will also add to the competition.
“The best goalie plays and that’s it,” stated Kempf. “Columbo is a hard worker and does her best to be a team player. She goes the extra yard to be a help and loves being a member of our program. Shara is determined to get better and improve.”
As always, Rowan will compete in one of the best conferences in the country. The NJAC sent three teams to the NCAA National Championship tournament in 2012. Montclair State won the conference after going 6-0 in the NJAC and 22-2 overall. The College of New Jersey finished second with a 4-2 mark in the conference and a 15-5 overall record. Both teams will continue to contend for the top position in the conference along with Rowan in 2013. William Paterson University, Kean University, Stockton College and Ramapo College will all look to be improved in the new year. Still, though, Kempf believes her team is ready for the test.
“We’ll be challenging to be NJAC champions,” remarked Kempf. “It is a very strong conference so you can’t just say ‘Oh, we’re going to win’. I one-hundred percent feel we are strong are enough to be the champions but that’s a long time from now.”
While Kempf is confident in her team, there’s still plenty of development and maturation she needs to see before the season begins and in the early weeks of the regular season. She is hoping that many of the younger players will take the next step in 2013.
“The biggest thing I want to see is them to step onto the field with more confidence and be there more for each other,” asserted Kempf. “I don’t want them to get wrapped up into where we’re playing, who we’re playing or what we’re playing for. I’d like them to play consistently and confidently. We’re a year older so I’m hoping that all pays off.”