Salisbury has long been the dominant field hockey team in the Capital Athletic Conference. The Sea Gulls, led by Hall of Fame coach Dawn Chamberlin, have registered 15 undefeated CAC seasons and suffered only two regular-season conference losses in the last 17 years. Salisbury has won 14 of the last 17 CAC championships.
The fourth-ranked Gulls will aim for another crown in 2012, and despite two fewer teams in the Capital Athletic Conference, it may find it tougher to repeat as champions. Mary Washington and Wesley, among others, are taking aim on the defending champs.
Wesley, which tied for second in the regular season chase last year, has advanced to the CAC title game in each of the past two years. It was the Wolverines, coached by former Sea Gull standout Tracey Short, that upended Salisbury in the 2010 CAC playoff semifinal round.
Mary Washington, led by another former Gull in Lindsay Elliott, tied Wesley for second place last year after winning the 2010 playoff crown by edging the Wolverines in the title contest. UMW has been in the CAC championship game two of the last three years.
St. Mary’s and York continue to pressure opponents every time out, and Frostburg State is led by one of the most athletic goalies in the country in Maggie Edwards. YCP has developed a strong nucleus of players entering their senior seasons that hopes to lift the Spartans into the upper echelon of the CAC standings.
The 2012 season opens Labor Day weekend with a number of tournaments and non-conference competitions. The first CAC showdown of the season is slated for Sept. 22, when SMC hosts the defending champs and York travels to UMW.
The six teams will all advance to the CAC Championship Tournament, which begins Oct. 28 and crowns a winner on Nov. 3. The conference champion earns an automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Championship Tournament.
Here is a brief look at each team heading into the 2012 campaign:
The future looks bright for Frostburg State for the upcoming 2012 season as 10 starters return for second year head coach Carly Sweeney. The Bobcats welcome back their top three scorers and potential All-American candidate Maggie Edwards in goal to a lineup looking to improve on last year’s seventh-place regular-season finish. With all six league teams slotted to make the CAC Tournament this fall, the Bobcats will look to ride their returning talent to a CAC trophy.
Led by a strong group of returner's from last year's 15-5 team that won three games over nationally-ranked opponents, the University of Mary Washington and second-year head coach Lindsey Elliott will look to continue its strength in the Middle Atlantic region this fall. Led by returning All-CAC performers in midfielders Florence George, Lisa Charney and Caitlin Baker, the Eagles will hope to continue its strong offensive production in 2012. UMW ranked among the top offensive clubs in the nation a season ago. Senior goalie Claire Gianelle will begin her second season in goal to anchor the Eagle defense.
Salisbury took back the CAC title last season and made the deepest NCAA tournament run of any CAC team in 2011, advancing to the national quaterfinals. With returning veterans and new talent the Sea Gulls are ready to make yet another run at the program's sixth national title under the guidance of Head Coach Dawn Chamberlin. Seniors Erica Henderson, Kristina Fusco, and Amber Holland return to the field in their final season and will be looked to for leadership on and off the field. Henderson and Fusco, an All-South Region Team first-selection, combined for 30 goals and seven assists in the circle. While Holland, an All-CAC second team selection, helped the Gulls to 10 shutouts and recorded three defensive saves.
Fifth-year head coach Katie Lange is excited about the upcoming season after seeing great promise and potential in the team during their first-ever overseas training trip to Bermuda. Coach Lange will count on team captains Ali McIntosh and Lauriann Parker to lead the 2012 edition comprised of 17 returning letterwinners and eight rookies. The Seahawks will be potent on the forward line as Paige Decker, the 2011 CAC Co-Rookie of the Year, and two-time All-Star, Parker, are back to provide the offensive punch once again up front. Gabby Collins, Daniella Hanacek, Rachel Heiss, and Claire Kortyna will supply transitional support in the midfield while McIntosh will anchor the defense.
Head Coach Tracey Short begins her 18th season at the helm of the Wolverines program and she welcomes back a pair of All-CAC performers in midfielder Madison Leone and goalkeeper Liz Groom. Also returning to the ECAC Tournament qualifying Wolverines are Tristin Burris and Rachael Joyner who both tallied double digits in points in 2011. The Navy Blue & White has advanced to the CAC Championship Game the last two seasons and open a very challenging 2012 schedule on August 31 when they travel to McDaniel.
The Spartans enter 2012 with high expectations as Jamie Swartz begins her fifth season with a strong core of retuners. All-CAC forward Sandee Reich leads an offense that returns four of their top five starters. In addition to Reich, Kailey Brewer, Madi Wilt, and Jillian Brezgel give York quality offensive fire power. Defensively, senior captain Danielle Gaitings anchors a unit that features three other returning starters. Swartz has brought in a class that should have the ability to contribute to the Spartans early in the season.