MADISON, N.J. – In the first four years of Landmark play, the Juniata College field hockey team has finished the season with a conference title, and at the start of the 2011 season the ending is expected to be the same according to the Landmark Preseason Field Hockey Poll. The seven head field hockey coaches and sports information directors at each institution that sponsor the sport were polled for the preseason ballot.
Sixty-five points was enough to give Juniata a comfortable edge at the top spot, as the four-time champions were picked first on nearly every ballot. The voting was tighter at the next three positions, with 10 points separating second from fourth. The Catholic University of America finished with 49 points good for second place. Drew University was third with 42 points, and Susquehanna University was only three points back in fourth with 39.
The Eagles earn the top position despite the loss of seven players, including four All-Conference performers. They still return a pair of All-Conference selections along with 25 players overall, with All-American Meghan McGlone anchoring the defense to lead the returning players.
Catholic has appeared in three of four Landmark title matches including last year, and also won an ECAC title a season ago. The Cardinals had 10 players depart after last season including the Landmark Player of the Year, but All-Conference performers Mary Swarthout and Tracey Scanlon are back to lead the team.
Drew lost only a pair of players from last year's 15-7 team, though one of them was the Landmark Offensive Player of the Year. The Rangers do have 15 players back this season, including senior defender Hannah Rau, who a first-team All-Conference defender for the team last year.
After finishing second in the Landmark regular season standings, Susquehanna will have a new coach as Kaitlyn Skelley Wahila takes over the program. She inherits a team with 19 returning players led by Ally Bradley a two-time All-Conference performer and 2009 Landmark Rookie of the Year.
The University of Scranton sits in fifth place in the voting after collecting 26 points. The Royals missed a Landmark postseason spot by one game, and have 14 players back from last year's team. Laurel Megargel was the Landmark Rookie of the Year last season, and highlights the returnees.
Goucher College also has a new coach in 2011 with Whitney Raffo assuming the role for the team that was voted sixth in the poll with 16 points. Goalkeeper Micki Manheimer was an All-Conference selection in her junior year, and she'll be joined by eight other returnees for her senior campaign.
Rounding out the voting in seventh place is Moravian College, which was just one point behind the Gophers with 15 points. Eight players were lost to graduation, and the team will be young with only three seniors but All-Conference performer Stephanie Pezzello is one of 10 returnees this year.
Four of the seven Landmark teams will kick off the season on Sept. 1with the rest opening play in the following days. The conference season will begin on Saturday September 24 with three games. Goucher travels to face Scranton, Susquehanna hosts Drew, and Moravian welcomes Catholic.