Fields of gold
The 2011 season was a golden one for the Denison field hockey team. The Big Red stickers picked up North Coast Athletic Conference gold twice, first capturing the league’s regular-season championship trophy, then sweeping through the NCAC’s postseason tournament to pick up more golden hardware and an even bigger prize, the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
That bid came with such clout that Denison was chosen of one of eight top seeds, earning the 18-1 Big Red a first-round bye. The dream season ended in the second round, when nationally ranked MIT upended DU by a 4-1 score in a regional match-up hosted by top-ranked Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
The season leading up to this year’s NCAA postseason action was truly one for the ages. The 2011 edition of the DU field hockey squad tied the school’s all-time record for wins in a season with 18, a feat also accomplished in 1984. Catie Merrick ’13, a forward from Owings Mills, Md., scored 15 goals, bringing her career total to 54 as she enters her senior season in 2012. She has already shattered the previous career scoring mark of 44 goals held by Jenny Lacey ’06 and Wizzie Crocker ’95. Goalkeeper Brittany Benson ’13, from Wilmette, Ill., also made her way into the Denison record books, posting 14 shutouts and surpassing the previous mark of 12 set by Elise Ludwig ’00. With 22 career shutouts already, and one more season to play, Benson also is threatening Ludwig’s career record of 25.
The Big Red gained momentum during a regular season that started with non-conference wins over Sewanee (Tenn.), Brockport State (N.Y.) and Centre (Ky.), and that had only one blemish—an overtime road loss to conference rival DePauw on Oct. 1. Denison more than made up for that loss, however, in two subsequent meetings with DePauw, winning, 1-0, at home on Oct. 29 against the Tigers in the final game of the regular season, and again in the conference tournament championship finals on Nov. 5, again in Granville, by a 2-0 score.
In the Oct. 29 game, both teams’ defenses forced a scoreless game for the first 68 minutes, with DU’s Mia Day ’14, of Fredericksburg, Va., scoring the game-winner with two minutes remaining. In the tournament championship rematch, Tara Pesman ’15, a first-year Big Red midfielder from Veldhoven, Netherlands, scored in the first half, and Merrick tallied the insurance goal late in the second period. Benson’s defense was impeccable in both contests, collecting six saves in the first win and seven more in the tournament finals. Pesman was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and she was joined on the 2011 All-Tournament Team by Benson, Karla Dixon ’14 of Toledo, and Katie McMahon ’14 of Wilmette, Ill.
Denison co-captains Kelsey Flowers ’12 of Darien, Conn., and Caroline Kasper ’12 of Richmond, Va., closed out their magnificent careers in 2011. The duo are the first to finish their senior season in the NCAA playoffs since DU last advanced to the tournament in 2000, head coach P.J. Soteriades’ first season at the helm of the Big Red program.
And now in her 11th season, Soteriades has produced her best won-lost record, 18-2, since coming to Denison. This dream season for the field hockey program comes on the heels of a banner 2011 campaign in women’s lacrosse last spring, during which Soteriades served as interim head coach. Not only did her 2011 lacrosse team go undefeated in the NCAC regular-season schedule, but it also won the conference tournament with a pair of dramatic one-goal victories in the semifinals and finals. And like this fall’s field hockey team, Soteriades’ lacrosse squad earned a bid to compete in NCAA postseason play.