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Sunday, May 22, 2022

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Spider field hockey splits opening-weekend games

The women's field hockey team is now 1-1 after starting its season in Oxford, Ohio last weekend.

The team started the weekend with an 8-3 victory Saturday in its first-ever game against Ball State University. Senior midfielder and captain Alex Malatesta led the team with three goals and two assists. The team lost to Miami University on Sunday, 6-1.

Last season, the Spiders did not win the Atlantic 10 title for the first time in six years, losing 2-1 to the University of Massachusetts in the tournament semi-finals.

"We just want to show everyone that last year was a growing year and this year we are back," said senior Becca Weaver, one of the team's three captains.

The team returned to campus for preseason Aug. 13. In the days leading up to the beginning of classes, the players participated in two-a-day practices, lift sessions and meetings to work on their competitive play, consistency and skills.

Assistant coach Jodi Murphy said the team had arrived on campus extremely fit. The team's chemistry has improved and teammates are pushing each other on the field and holding one another to high standards, she said.

Murphy also said a major focus of the team's strategy this season would be implementing a full defensive press. The press is a team effort that places high pressure on opponents to force turnovers.

Junior Jess Weidner also noted the team's improvements. She said the team had grown a lot since last year and brought its on-the-field intensity to a new level. The team trained hard in the off-season and many teammates attended camps together this summer to improve, she said.

The Spiders added five freshmen to their roster this season. Murphy said they had been quick and eager to learn and were already a vocal presence. Weaver said the new players were "surprisingly superb," and added that they were physically and mentally prepared for the season.

Malatesta said freshman Katelin Peterson's speed would contribute to the forward line. Peterson scored one of the team's goals against Ball State as well as scoring the only Richmond goal against Miami. Freshman Grace Krafte also recorded a goal against Ball State.

Ryan Elliott is also new to the field hockey team this year. Elliott, a native of Northern Ireland, will serve on the coaching staff as an assistant coach. He was previously at Northumbria University where he was head coach for the men's and women's field hockey programs.

With two games complete, the Spiders will compete in nine more away games and seven at home. Weidner and sophomore teammates Tori Whitcher and Michelle Weaver said although there were a lot of away games this season, they did not feel this would have a negative impact on the team's success. They said being away gave the team a mental advantage and brought it together as one unit.

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The team's home opener is against Princeton on Sept. 6 and the team will play against Columbia the next day.

"Princeton is going to be huge," Weaver said. "They are a very strong team and coached very well."

In addition, the team will face James Madison University, University of Massachusetts, Virginia Commonwealth University, Saint Joseph's University and Temple University at home.

Contact staff writer Jessica Murray at jessie.murray@richmond.edu

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