The SUNY New Paltz field hockey team has never finished with a winning record in their previous 12 seasons of competition.
Now they are a conference powerhouse.
On Oct. 20, the Hawks clinched the No. 1 seed in the SUNYAC and finished with only one loss in league play.
With their 5-3 non-conference win over Vassar College on Oct. 12, the field hockey team set a program record for wins with 10. This win total eclipses the previous record of nine wins set by the 2010 team.
Standout players this season include fourth-year forward Morgan Lizotte and third-year midfielder/forward Danielle Conklin. Lizotte has scored nine goals and Conklin has 20 points this season. Third-year goalkeeper Antonija Pjetri has recorded six shutouts in the 16 games
Other key contributors include first-year midfielder/defender Jessica Caruana and third-year forward Alicia Aragosa. This collective good play has contributed to the team’s wins in record proportions.
“Reaching our tenth win this season is a great feeling of accomplishment and we are confident we can keep up the winning momentum as the regular season play winds down and postseason begins,” fourth-year defender/midfielder Kim Lepore said.
Lepore said the good chemistry that she and her teammates have on the field has made the team’s offensive and defensive game more proficient. She recognizes the team’s passion, excitement for playing the game and hunger for winning a championship.
Individual success has accompanied the team’s collective success. Conklin has won the SUNYAC field hockey Player of the Week honors for the second week in a row. This marks the fourth consecutive week that a Hawk took home the honors, with Lizotte and Pjetri being the previous winners.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Conklin said. “All of our hard work is paying off and being recognized.”
Since Head Coach Shanna Vitale took over the program in 2009, the team’s fortunes have turned around. They went from perennial cellar-dweller to an up-and-coming force in the SUNYAC. Vitale won conference Coach of the Year honors last season, and she is capitalizing on it this season.
“Our coach has been building up the program since she started at New Paltz four years ago and the talented players she brings in each year have changed the face of the program,” Lepore said.
The team believes Vitale’s knowledge and efforts toward improvement have helped them to thrive in the conference.
“She is an awesome coach,” Conklin said. “She knows the game better than anyone and works with us on and off the field to help improve our overall performance.”
As the postseason nears, the Hawks are flying high. They finished with the best overall record in the SUNYAC at 12-4 and a conference record of 5-1. Their Friday, Oct. 19 win over SUNY Oneonta secured their spot in the postseason.
Going into the playoffs, Vitale said that “instead of hoping” to do well, the team is “very capable of being successful.”
The Hawks’ first-round opponent is Oneonta, and their past against the Red Dragons has not been favorable. In the program’s history, the field hockey team has only beaten Oneonta twice, including the win on Oct. 19.
“The past is the past for a reason,” Vitale said. “It’s up to us to expose their weaknesses and play to our strengths.”
The Hawks play Wilkes University on Oct. 26 in Wilkes-Barre, P.A.