IUP fall sports are back for the first time in over a year, and the IUP field hockey team is taking full advantage of this return to play.
The Crimson Hawks opened up the season with their Labor Day home tournament.
“It’s a relief,” head coach Gary Agard said. “I think the players just wanted to play and compete. I think it was kind of a godsend; it exposed our freshman and sophomores [to] experience against teams that set us well for this weekend.”
IUP opened its season with two solid wins against Newberry and Lindenwood by scores of 2-1 and 3-1 respectively.
The Hawks had some impressive showings from their players to start the season. In their first win, Paeton Hartmann (junior, pre-med) opened up the game with a goal after a scoreless first 40 minutes. Elizabeth “Lizzi” Clemmer (fifth year, nursing) scored the game-winning goal in the last four minutes of the match.
A familiar name for the Crimson Hawks, Georgiana Chiavacci (graduate, human resources) lit up the scoreboard in IUP’s game against Newberry, scoring two goals for her squad.
While these players may have shown up on the scoreboard in the first two matchups, Agard has high hopes for many of the players on this year’s squad.
“We have so many [great players]; Lizzi Clemmer keeps this team together,” Agard said. “Emma Wilhelm (sophomore, nursing) has been the rock for our team this year. Blaise Cugini (junior, early childhood/special education) is going to really step up this year. I also think Paeton Hartmann stepped up her game. I think she is gonna have an amazing season.”
Even though there were no official games played last year, the field hockey team got to play in some scrimmage games in the spring that have proven vital to the development of this squad’s younger core members.
“I think the year we had off, we got to play in the spring; we got to play against the college teams,” Agard said. “I think they had the experience of playing against college players. The freshmen this year are really understanding the speed of the game. I am expecting great things for the incoming class.”
This 2-0 start will help the team build momentum going into its next matchup on Sept. 11 against the Seton Hill Griffins. The Hawks have an impressive 10-0 record against the Griffins dating back to 2011 and are looking to keep that streak going.
It would be easy for a team to be lulled into a false sense of security, but the Hawks did not take any games off.
“Every game is important for us; we have an objective to go really far this year,” Agard said. “We are gonna focus on one game at a time. We are gonna practice like every game is important. Even though they had a slow start, they are still a quality team, and they are going to give us their best. There are no soft teams in our conference.
“I have been here 20 years. I think that most of the national championships come through this conference. It is tough, no easy wins.”
In the preseason Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division II National Coaches’ Poll, there were five teams in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference that were ranked in the top 10.
There is plenty of tough competition in this conference; Agard and his squad would have it no other way. There is a lot of optimism that this squad can make some noise this year in an already stacked conference.