Virginia Field Hockey Must Replace Key Losses

Jans Croon returns as a key defender for Virginia. ~ Photo courtesy of Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

After a disappointing 2020 season, the Virginia field hockey team returned to the NCAA Tournament last season and finished 12-9. The Cavaliers went all the way to the ACC Championship before falling to North Carolina, and then lost to Maryland in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament to end their season. They did lose some valuable pieces, as their top three players in minutes played from last season are gone. If they want to replicate last season’s success and push deeper into the NCAA Tournament, they will need to replace this trio and exceed their production.

Lead point-scorer Amber Ezechiels, Makayla Gallen, and Rachel Robinson combined for 59 starts out of 63 possible games. Ezechiels was named an All-American three times, including a 2021 first-team selection, and All-ACC three times, two of which on the first team. Gallen played in 101 games, the most of any Cavalier in history and was named to the All-ACC Tournament Team for 2021. Robinson was named as an All-American three times as well and was the first four-year captain in program history.

This trio consistently put Virginia in the best position to win due to talent and leadership, so the Cavaliers have to find new players to take the next step.

For starters, the Cavaliers will have stability in goal with Tyler Kennedy. In her freshman season, Kennedy started in 17 games with an 8-8 record. She had the second-best save percentage in the ACC (.735) and posted two shutouts. On the season, Kennedy averaged 3.16 saves per game and allowed 1.18 goals against per game. When a team loses a bunch of valuable pieces, it helps to keep consistency to protect your goal. Kennedy offers this and could play a bigger role with a year of experience under her belt.

Looking at the strikers, senior Laura Janssen was second in points in 2021 (12). Janssen has come up in big moments for the Cavaliers, like the game-winning goal against Boston College in the ACC Quarterfinals and scoring the first and last attempts in the shootout against Louisville in the ACC Semifinals. Her 5 goals were the least she has had at UVA, and she was 18.5% in her shooting percentage. For her career, she shot 30.2%. Compared to her past seasons, last season’s poor conversion rating was an outlier, and she hopes to get back on track.

In the midfield, the Cavaliers will be looking for new playmakers. Greer Gill, another departed senior from 2021, led the team with 8 assists, but she is also no longer with the team. Sophomore Noa Boterman tied Janssen with 5 goals in only 10 starts as a freshman. She was tied for fifth on the team with 11 points, as she tied with fellow midfielder Adele Iacobucci.

Iacobucci was named to the 2021-22 U.S. Women’s National Team in June 2021. Her shot attempts have steadily gone up throughout her career, as she had 38 shots in 2021 and could very well see another increase as a senior with the loss of production around her. Senior Danielle Husar and junior Meghen Hengerher made 17 and 14 appearances, respectively, and should also look to fill in as starters when needed.

At fullback, sophomore Jans Croon was one of two players to start all 21 games for the Cavaliers last season. Croon does not pop up on the stat sheet, as she recorded only 1 point, but she has been a vital part to a Virginia defense that allowed 1.18 goals per game, which ranked No. 13 in the country. Sophomore Emily Field also played a role for the Cavaliers’ defense, appearing in 15 games with 10 starts.

Lindsay Dickinson is a graduate transfer from Connecticut and should also receive plenty of action. She was named All-Big East Second-Team and Big-East All-Tournament Team in 2021. In her four seasons with the Huskies, she recorded 15 points in 75 games with 72 being starts.

Taking a look at some incoming freshmen, UVA coach