By Andrew Phillips, VCU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Following a 13 win season and their first trip back to the CAA Tournament since 2004, the VCU field hockey team is hungry to continue making strides to stay a contender in the CAA.
VCU will have to replace two of the best players to come through the program with the graduation of seniors Marle and Flore van Dessel.
"It is really more then replacing two seniors. Marle and Flore meant everything to this team in terms of leadership, they were this teams heart and soul," said fifth-year head coach Kelly McQuade.
The coaching staff decided to wait until the week before spring competition to vote on captains, which is usually done when the team gets back together for the start of the spring season. The team voted on rising senior goalkeeper, Erin Jabolnski, and rising junior Kelsey Scherrer to be its captains for the season.
"Erin is a terrific leader, and has matured incredibly over her time here. She does a lot of coaching on the side, which has helped her become more of a vocal leader on the field," McQuade said.
The other captain, Kelsey Scherrer, will also have a large bulk of the scoring responsibilities for next season as well. Scherrer, who has been one of the Rams leading scores over the past two seasons will be helped in the scoring department by rising sophomore Emilie Soares, who is described by McQuade as very "scrappy" player.
"Kelsey will have a lot of pressure on her next season because she has a big shoes to fill. She has to perform under pressure and help lead this team," McQuade said.
The Black and Gold played a very tough spring schedule highlighted by North Carolina, who was the national runner-up in the fall. The schedule also included conference rivals William and Mary, Old Dominion, and James Madison, along with cross-town rival Richmond.
"Spring was great for us. Any time you can get experience against those caliber teams it is going to set you up for success in the future," McQuade said.
In the spring season, the field hockey team has more time to focus on individual improvements, as opposed to the fall when everything is team structured. VCU saw improvements from rising sophomore Kelsey Powell, and rising juniors Haley McBee, Chelsea Hill, and Meaghan Neylon.
"Those kids really stepped up, got themselves in the right positions, had moments of brilliance, and showed a ton of potential," McQuade said.
Next year's squad will also feature another highly touted recruiting class, brought in by McQuade and her staff. The Black and Gold will welcome in six new faces into the mix including Kendell Combs and Stacey Farr, two highly touted seniors.
"I think the best thing about bringing in talent is that it creates inner-team competition. All elite level teams have that, complacency is not a good thing, but when you always have someone nipping at your heels you work harder," McQuade said.
The 2011 fall features a very tough schedule for the Rams. The schedule is highlighted by national semifinalist Virginia, plus the always competitive CAA slate.
"Next year schedule will be challenging, but fun. At first glance it can be intimidating, but if that's the level we want to play at, we need to start doing it now," McQuade said.
The Rams have a lengthy list of goals for next season as well. Returning, and winning the CAA tournanement is on the top of the list.
McQuade said, "We want to go back to the CAA tournament, with the conference being so competive it is a very prestigious award to achieve. Now that we have a taste of going, we want to continue to go every year."