SMITHFIELD, R.I. -- With the start of the field hockey season just days away, the excitement is mounting for the Bryant University field hockey team. The team is working hard to improve after a 4-2 conference record earned it a three seed in last year's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships. With newly-named head coach Joppe de Vries, expectations are only increasing.
This is part one of a three-part season preview on the Bryant field hockey team's upcoming season. We will preview the midfielders on Wednesday and the forwards on Thursday.
The age-old moniker of "offense wins games, defense wins championships" will be put to the test this season. The Black and Gold defense was third in the MAAC last season in goals allowed, allowing just 44 over the course of the season.
The Bulldog defense recently saw two of its members named to the MAAC Preseason All-Conference team, senior Keighan Richardson (North Attleboro, Mass.) and sophomore Floor van Dommelen (Berg en Dal, Netherlands).
de Vries was excited to hear that the duo received honors, as they will be the anchor of a tough Bryant core.
"You know, it's always good to have those people in key spots," the first-year coach coming from Maryland said. "I believe if the defense is strong, it's easy to go forward and make some goals. There's a lot of knowledge and, with a lot of communication skills, they can lead that group very well."
DiMarco brings 26 games of experience into the year, starting in 16 a season ago. Paired with Richardson, the back line of the Bryant crew is one of the most seasoned in the MAAC.
"They are very strong players and their distribution skills are really good," said de Vries. "I am super excited to see them grow even further."
de Vries also said that the two freshmen have quickly grown to the style of Bryant field hockey that he has expected.
"Alex, we transformed her as a defender right now and she is picking it up really fast. Lauren, also as a freshman, is doing really well there understanding our way of playing," the Bryant leader said. "It's a solid unit, and they are growing every day."
A good defensive line will help tremendously, but the player in pads behind them is even potentially more important. This year, the Bulldogs will have two goalkeepers on the roster, sophomore Miranda Grundy (Smithfield, R.I.) and freshman Lyndsay Swanston (Burlington, Ontario).
Grundy saw action in one game for Bryant last season, but did not allow a goal against in that time. Swanston's first taste of college field hockey will come this season, but the Canadian goalie posted a 19-4-3 record in her senior season at Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School.
"Miranda has been around for a long time. She has not had major experience in games, but she has been practicing like a rock star," de Vreis said. "Lyndsey, as a freshman, is doing really well to adapt to a new pace and adapt to different kinds of shots. They're a strong unit, they're doing great. I am really happy with their progress."
The defense will see its first action on Friday, when Bryant opens up the 2017 campaign at Boston University, who enters the season ranked 16th in the nation. Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. and will be played at New Balance Field in Boston, Mass.