Last December, after the 2017 season, Georgetown field hockey head coach Shannon Soares was promoted within the Georgetown athletic department to Associate Athletics Director for Administration and Varsity Sports. A month later, the athletic department announced the hiring of new head coach Christy Longacre from Ball State University.
Longacre inherited a team that finished 9-10 overall. In Soares four years as head coach, the team improved dramatically from a team that only won two games the season before Soares took over, a fact Longacre is hoping to build upon in her first year at the helm.
“In the Big East conference, they’re knocking at the door of winning a different game against a different team each year,” she said. “It’s just kind of being more consecutive with those games and continuing to win the ones we can win. I’m excited.”
While excited about the team’s progression in the past few seasons under Soares, Longacre hasn’t been afraid to make big changes to all aspects of the program. “Everything is changing,” junior forward Lindsay Getz said. “From the way that practices are run, the way that we do team meals and warm ups, every aspect of how we play field hockey on and off the field has been totally changed.”
The new coaching staff has stressed a heavier focus on defense. Longacre, a former back at Old Dominion University (Big East), attributes her belief in defense as the key to winning games to her days at ODU.
“Defense winning games is true. If they can’t score, then we have a better chance,” she said. “I think from a team standpoint, defense — you can’t play individual defense. It has to be a team defense, whereas attacking can sometimes become individual — defending you have to do it as a team.”
The changes that have come with the transition have been sweeping, but, according to the women on the team, welcome.
“They’ve brought a different sense of energy and culture to the program which I think we needed to kind of change it up,” sophomore defender Anna Farley said. “I think it was all for the better for our team.”
“I think as a team we’re much more optimistic and interested to see how the season’s going to go and really excited to play,” Getz said. “The coaching style is so different, we’re learning different things on the field, different things off of the field, so we’re all really excited to kind of put that into play and see where that takes us.”
Aside from the coaching change, the core of the 2017 team has largely remained intact, only losing three players to graduation. The starpower on the Hoyas front line is returning in sophomore forward Cami Osbourne, who led the team with 12 goals and 26 points in her freshman campaign. Getz, who finished second in goals scored with eight, sophomore Nell Van Schaack, who tallied seven goals, and sophomore Ali Cronin, who added four, all return to round out the Hoyas’ attack.
Additionally, Farley, who tallied six goals and six assists for 18 points in 2017 will return to the back line for the Hoyas. Farley became the first freshman in program history to be awarded All-Big East Honors when she was named to the second team after last season.
“They were a huge part of this team last year,” Longacre said of the sophomore class. “I’m continuing to look for them to bring what they need to from their roles each and every day, and I think they are starting to step out as leaders because they are getting a good amount of playing time.”
To add to an already strong underclassmen presence, Longacre has brought in six new players: five freshmen, and one sophomore transfer. While the returning talent may not lend itself to large impacts from the incoming class, Longacre is expecting big minutes and big contributions from them all the same.
“To me, nobody hides,” she said. “Everybody needs to do everything on this team, and whether that means be a leader or be the one that’s communicating and organizing, everybody needs to do their part, everybody needs to do their role, and do it well, regardless of what grade they’re in.”
The ‘do your part’ mentality has been a large part of Longacre’s philosophy in taking over this team. With a new style of play, and a new focus, many players have shifted positions and are taking on different roles on the field. With that, the coaching staff has worked to find each player’s niche.
“The entire preseason we focused a lot with Christy [Longacre] and [Assistant Coach] Kelsey [Smither] on finding our individual role on the team and how that can contribute to the team itself and where each person fits into the place,” Getz said. “What your role is and how you fulfill that role and how you’re fulfilling that role and how to better fulfill that role.”
That is the mentality as the Hoyas begin their 2018 campaign, with hopes of securing enough conference wins to take them to the Big East Tournament in November. Of the eight Big East teams, only the top four advance to the tournament, one of which will likely be Connecticut, the defending National Champions.
Last year, Georgetown finished Conference play with a 1-5 Big East record, and failed to advance to the tournament. Recently in the 2018 Big East Coaches preseason poll, the Hoyas were picked to finish last in the conference. The players, however, feel that a Big East Tournament is much closer than it may appear.
A lot of the games last year we came very close to a bunch of the teams that did end up going to the tournament,” Farley said. “It’s definitely within reach. It could definitely happen this year.”
But for this team, which came so close to a winning season a year ago, an above .500 record is where sights are set. “We haven’t had that in a long time,” Getz said. “So I think having more wins than losses is a huge win for us.”
For Longacre and the Hoyas, that means taking it one game at a time, beginning on Friday at Davidson. “To be honest, I think we can learn and grow from each game,” she said. “Davidson is first and foremost, and we’re gonna build and grow from that game and then App. State right after that.”
The Hoyas will kick off the 2018 season at Davidson (A-10) on Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET, and will play again on Sunday at Appalachian State (MAC) at noon ET before returning home the following week to take on Sacred Heart University (MAAC). Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for more coverage of field hockey, and other fall sports at Georgetown.