The field hockey team has earned a national ranking for the first time in program history.
On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the three-time defending State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Champions gained the No. 17 slot in the 2015 Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) NCAA Div. III National Coaches Poll with 190 total points.
New Paltz is off to their best start in program history with a record of 6-1.
In recent play, the Hawks defeated a nationally-ranked opponent for the second time in less than two weeks when they defeated then-No. 5 Skidmore College on Saturday, Sept. 19 by a score of 3-2.
For the first time in 12 meetings dating back to 2004, the Hawks were on the winning end of a game against the Thoroughbreds.
The Thoroughbreds jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals by second-year forward Kayla Rose and second-year midfielder Caroline Saros. Hawks third-year forward Erin Landy pushed a pass from fourth-year co-Captain Jessica Caruana into the Skidmore goal to make it a 2-1 game after the first half.
In the second half, the Hawks dominated possession as they outshot the Thoroughbreds 16-4 and held a 4-2 advantage in penalty corners. All of the shots eventually led to Caruana scoring the game-tying goal. It wasn’t long afterwards that third-year forward Kayla McKeveny gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead with her seventh goal of the season.
“The win against Skidmore was a confidence builder for our program,” Hawks Head Coach Shanna Vitale said. “It gave us an understanding that we belong at that level and that we’re capable of accomplishing great things like we did.”
Hawks fourth-year goalkeeper Alayna Wageman tallied 11 saves in the victory and was named State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Field Hockey Defensive Player of the Week for the period ending on Sunday, Sept. 20. This is the fourth time in her career that Wageman has received this honor, with her most recent recognition awarded earlier this season on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Caruana was also recognized, as she was named SUNYAC Field Hockey Offensive Player of the Week for the third time in her career. Caruana scored three goals and notched an assist between the Hawks’ victory against Skidmore and their 6-0 victory against Union College on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Caruana credits the team’s diversity as an asset that has led the Hawks to their success.
“This year the team is more motivated and understanding of the task at hand,” Caruana said. “It is almost better that half the team are returners and the other half freshmen because we are constantly learning from each other and growing together as a new team. We are teaching them the meaning behind our program and they are teaching us new ways to build our program.”
Before their 2-1 victory against then-No. 11 Montclair State University on Wednesday, Sept. 9 the Hawks had never defeated a nationally ranked team in the regular season.
“I am so incredibly proud of my team for beating both Montclair and Skidmore,” Hawks fourth-year co-Captain Dani Ackerman said. “In the past we have never been able to come out on top against these two talented teams. Seeing the team come together like this so early on in the season, is incredibly rewarding and exciting. We have such a talented group and I am looking forward to all of the amazing things we are going to accomplish this season.”
The Hawks will open up State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC)play on the road on Friday, Sept. 25 when they face off against SUNY Oswego. The following day the Hawks will face SUNY Cortland.
Despite conference play starting up, Vitale is not making any changes to the team’s focus.
“[We are preparing the] same way we always prepare,” Vitale said. “We need to play hard and up the level of competition at practice. We will continue to fine tune our strengths and continue to create that competitive environment and not let down because we did something great, we are moving on from that. That’s what’s going to be important. To train at the level that we’re capable of and reaching to go further than that.”