BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh field hockey team opens its season in a big way this weekend, hosting Ball State on Saturday (noon) and Liberty on Sunday (1 p.m.). The Mountain Hawks are coming off a strong finish to last season, posting a 3-2 league mark to earn the #3 seed in the Patriot League Tournament. Lehigh won four of its final six regular season games to gain momentum heading into 2012.
The Mountain Hawks will play 10 of their 17 regular season game at home. Saturday will mark only the second-ever meeting with Ball State (and first since 1984) while Lehigh and Liberty have never met. Only in their second year of existence, the Flames enjoyed a strong opening campaign in 2011, finishing 6-11. That included games against a variety of opponents, including foes from Division I and III.
Lehigh features a strong group of returnees, highlighted by all four of its All-Patriot League honorees from a season ago. Senior Kim Eng headlines the offense, owning 71 career points (28 goals, 15 assists). The two-time First Team All-Patriot Leaguer led the team with 24 points in 2011 behind 10 goals and four assists. In addition to the strong core of returnees, Lehigh’s 12 incoming freshmen have enjoyed strong preseason camps to add tremendous competition and depth to the squad.
Ball State is coming off a 4-16 season, but the Cardinals did win all four games in MAC play to tie for fourth and earn a spot in the conference tournament. The squad returns only one of its top five scorers in Tori Widrick, who posted 11 points (five goals, one assist) a season ago. The team also lost both goalkeepers who saw action in Chelsea Mitchell and Haley Fusting.
Liberty finished its inaugural campaign 6-11, earning wins over Marywood, Christopher Newport, Lindenwood, Roanoke, Washington & Lee and Houghton. Out of the NorPac conference, the Flames also hung tough against numerous Division I foes, falling by only one to Robert Morris and Appalachian State. Helen Doolittle led the team with seven goals and 14 points last season while Abby Batdorf had nine points via three goals and three assists. The team’s lone senior is returning goalie Ann Jefferis, who started all 17 games with a 1.88 GAA and 78.7 save percentage. Jefferis played two seasons for the Richmond Spiders before transferring to Liberty.
Following this weekend, Lehigh will head to Penn on Friday (Aug. 31) for a 7 p.m. game against the Quakers. The Mountain Hawks then return home to host Saint Francis (Pa.) on Sunday, Sept. 2.
Like Lehigh field hockey on Facebook and follow on Twitter for continued updates on the Mountain Hawks throughout the 2012 season.