To say Wesleyan had its work cut out for it week-in and week-out during the 2010 campaign, might be an understatement. As was the case with all NESCAC squads, the competition faced within the conference was second to none last year as nine of the member colleges, including non-playing member Hamilton, were ranked among the top-25 at some point in 2010. As 2011 unfolds, nothing much has changed as eight squads holds top-20 spots, meaning another ultra-challenging season for the Cardinals against the nation's best.
With four of the team's NESCAC losses to nationally ranked opponents coming by five goals or less, and two of those (Bowdoin and Amherst) by a single goal, the Cardinals know they can play with the best and the return of 12 letterwinners and eight starters gives the team a solid nucleus to go out and do some damage. Team tri-captains Allie Lynch '11 (#10, left side photo) and Jess Chukwu '11 (#23, right side photo) were outstanding achievers in 2010 as Lynch set school records for single-game (8), seasonal (44) and career (70) assists while Chukwu, with 31 goals, was a second-team all-NESCAC choice. They will continue to pace the attack. Lynch, with 107 career points, ranks ninth all-time at Wesleyan. Should she come through with her average of 35 points in 2011, she will move into third place. Chukwu, with 81 goals and six assists, is looking to become just the 12th Cardinal to amass 100 career points and only the fourth to crack the century mark for career goals. Claire Hunter '11 (photo lower middle), the team's third captain, will serve as an inspirational leader as she is unable to compete this year.
Others seasoned starters back for the Cardinals include Liz Chabot '12, Catherine Taibi '13, Kayla Ellman '13, Lydia Kring '13, Kaylin Berger '13 and goalie Maggie Drowica '12. Also back with solid playing experience are Claire O'Brien '12, Emma Daniels '13, Alexa Narzikul '12 and Eliza Ruggiero '13. Add in the talent of eight freshmen and Wesleyan hopes to be able to go toe-to-toe with its NESCAC rivals. In the preseason IWLCA poll, Hamilton (still a non-playing conference member until 2012) is #2, Trinity is #7, Colby is #8, Williams is #9, Tufts is #12, Middlebury is #14, Amherst is #18 and Bowdoin is #19. Wesleyan also faces #16 Babson in a non-conference matchup, meaning more than half of the Cardinals' contests in 2011 are against ranked opponents.
Wesleyan gets the schedule underway Sat., March 5 with a visit to non-league rival Eastern Connecticut. The home slate begins Sat., March 12 vs. Bowdoin in the opening NESCAC contest.
(action photos courtesy of Chiarabest.com)