Much has changed since EMU's field hockey team last appeared in an ODAC Championship game in 2009. Although, the Royals are still second in league history with 11 ODAC titles, they have also missed the postseason tourney the past three seasons.
But with the 2018 season just days away, a new era is gaining steam as Coach Ashley Kishorn enters her second campaign leading Eastern Mennonite. With the foundation of her program laid and her first recruiting class prepared to step onto the field, the resurgence of the Royals is starting.
Record in 2017: 5-12 (0-7 ODAC)
Coach: Ashley Kishorn (5-12 overall, 0-7 ODAC in one season) - Kishorn increased EMU's competitiveness in her first season, including an impressive 5-5 record against non-conference opponents.
Season opener in 2018:
- play Transylvania on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 1:00pm in Sewanee, Tenn. The Royals also play Sewanee on Sunday, Sept. 2.
Other season highlights:
- host ODAC opener against Virginia Wesleyan on Saturday, Sept. 29
- host five straight games on the EMU Turf Field in a 14-day span from Sept. 8 to Sept. 21
- host another four-game stretch of games between Oct. 6 and Oct. 15
- celebrate Senior Recognition on Homecoming Weekend, hosting St. Mary's (Md.) on Friday, Oct. 12
- play 11 of their 20 games at home
Career stats to watch this season:
- goalie Kelsey Troyer enters with 341 career saves. Troyer needs 49 saves to break the EMU career record of 389, held by Jen Kooker.
SID: How would you recap 2017 in a couple of sentences, and how does that play into your team for this fall?
AK: The 2017 season was certainly a transition year that allowed our new coaching staff to get settled into the program. We had a lot of freshmen in the lineup and had to make a lot of adjustments throughout the season. By the end of the season, you could see the players' confidence increase and the team came together really well. Everyone put in a lot of work in the offseason that allowed us to create a competitive and positive team culture. The hope is that that culture will carry over into the 2018 season.
SID: The team only graduated three seniors, but one was a three-time All-ODAC First Teamer and the other two played vital roles. How will you replace them?
AK: The graduated class left their mark on the program. Emily Augsburger is arguably one of the best players to ever leave the program and she left a hole in our midfield that will be difficult to fill. With them, we also lost three big personalities. It is exciting to see how the team will adjust without them and who will step up to fill roles as team leaders.
AK: We have several new players on the team that will help make up the attacking line. The team will be looking for Lauren to lead the offensive line to create scoring opportunities. Madeline (Mads) also was becoming more of an offensive threat towards the second half of the season - she had two huge goals for us and was starting to take more shots! We are hoping that she will continue to be both an offensive and defensive threat. Bri Miller (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester), Julie Burkhardt (Perkasie, Pa./PA Cyber), Hannah Nichols (Fredericksburg, Va./Chancellor), and incoming freshman Skylar Hedgepeth (Smithfield, Va./Smithfield) will compete for starting positions on the forward line.
SID: Besides those two, who are your key returners and what roles do you expect them to play this year?
AK: As mentioned above, Madeline Mast is a strong, consistent player in the midfield. She offers support to both our attack and defense.
We are returning our entire defensive unit; Kayla Maret (Chesapeake, Va./Indian River) and Clover Cooper (Barboursville, Va./Orange County) have put in a lot of offseason work. They were all in for the spring season and have improved so much throughout their freshman year. We are excited to get them back on the field and see what they will offer to the team this season. They will likely compete to fill Augs' center midfielder role and/or anchor the defense.
SID: Kelsey Troyer (Lancaster, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) made a great improvement in the goalie position last year. What are you expecting in the cage this year?
AK: We are excited to have Kelsey back; she got really comfortable in the cage last season. We have added a goalkeeper coach to our staff and I believe she will help Kelsey bring new confidence and skill to her senior season.
SID: Tell me a bit about your incoming recruiting class. First an over-arching comment on the group as a whole, and then mention a few individuals and what roles they might play in their first year.
AK: I am really excited about the incoming class; we brought in some strong players that are prepared to join the program and will make an immediate impact on the field. Rachel Breslin (Lititz, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) offers versatility in the attack and midfield. We have several strong defenders (Molly King (Lancaster, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) and Brandy Troutman (Mountville, Pa./Hempfield)) who are coming in, and that will allow us to move players around and fill different roles on the field as needed.
SID: What is your feel for this team, now that there are a core of returners who have played for you and you also have your first recruiting class in the fold?
AK: This team is filled with diversity, I am excited to see how the players will adapt and learn from one another. My hope is for these individuals to challenge each other and create growth among the group. We do have a core group of returners, but we have a talented incoming freshman class that will push our returners to work even harder.
SID: Last year's team made a notable improvement in their competitiveness…what will it take for them to translate that to an improvement in victories?
AK: This team will be very different from last year as in there will be new faces to the program; however, I believe the competitiveness will transfer over with the returning group. The team wants to see success in the schedule and I'm confident through our preparation we will be able to do that this season.
SID: How will you benefit from a schedule that includes 11 home games?
AK: We have a busy schedule this year including 11 home games. The schedule will allow us to develop early in the season, and have confidence going into our ODAC schedule.
SID: Overall general feeling of what 2018 will be for your team?
AK: I am so excited to get started with our 2018 season! I've had a countdown in my office since our final game of 2017. I absolutely love coaching the EMUFH team because of their commitment to improvement and their desire to never give up whether it be in practices or games. They also genuinely care for one another and are family.
Our theme for 2018 will be "As Bold As Lions!" We plan to pick up where we left off in 2017 and continue to grow the program. We hope to see a lot of fans at our 11 home games!