Junior midfielder Katie McErlean.
This past weekend, the Hopkins field hockey team played the Washington College Shorewomen in its Conference home opener. The 17th-ranked Blue Jays dominated, winning 3-0 and recording their third shutout on the season.
The Jays’ offense was fueled by junior midfielder Katie McErlean, who assisted on two of the team’s goals. Both assists were redirections of shots from McErlean, the first coming from freshman midfielder Abby Birk and the second from sophomore midfielder Seema Sajjan.
McErlean is now tied for the team lead in assists and is tied for third in points, helping the team get off to its best start since the 2009 campaign.
McErlean spoke to The News-Letter about her success and the team’s hot start to the year.
The News-Letter: What worked for the team against the Shorewomen and how can the team improve?
Katie McErlean: We did such a great job stepping to the ball and stepping in front of the other team. Both offensively and defensively, we outstepped Washington College and we won almost every 50/50 ball. Our defense also did a great job shutting down their forwards and not giving them room to run. In particular, there was one very skilled player that we were worried about going into the game, and our defense completely took her out of the game, not letting her receive or carry at all. One adjustment that we made at halftime that we can continue to work on is capitalizing on every opportunity we have to score and getting hungry in the goal mouth. We controlled possession for almost the entire first half, but we couldn’t find a way to score. Moving forward with the season, we will continue to work on finishing and treating every chance to score like it is the opportunity to win the championship game.
N-L: How do you feel the early non-Conference games have helped prepare the team for Conference play?
KM: The early non-Conference games are crucial for us to prepare for Conference play. They were great opportunities for our less-experienced players to gain that valuable college-level experience and to learn how they’ll have to adjust their play from high school. Also, they allowed us to see the areas in which we needed to improve early on, so that we had the chance to fix them in the practices leading up to our first Conference game.
N-L: How have the team dynamics and leadership responsibilities changed after losing last year’s seniors?
KM: We have many new personalities stepping into leadership roles this year, after losing our seniors from last year. Our team culture encourages strong leadership, critical feedback and encouragement from all of our players, regardless of class. We are seeing strong leadership from many of the seniors and underclassmen as well. We have had many freshmen step into the starting roles that were left open after losing the seniors from last year, especially as defenders and forwards. They have done a great job stepping up and executing under pressure.
N-L: How have the freshmen adapted to Head Coach Jane Wells’ system?
KM: The freshmen have done a great job adapting to the system that coach has created for us, and the returners have done a great job welcoming them into the team and offering guidance and advice. During the preseason, we spend a lot of time talking about team culture and what defines “Hopkins hockey.” Our freshmen have done a great job learning and incorporating our team mindset and championship effort into their game, on and off the field.
N-L: As the season goes on, what are the keys for the team to continue its success?
KM: The biggest key to success as the season goes on is to not overlook any game and treat every game like it is the championship game. Our Conference is very competitive, and anything can happen. It’s easy to just think about how we’re going to win the Conference Championship, but we won’t get there if we don’t treat every single game with the same intensity and focus.
N-L: What are your personal goals and the team’s goals for the rest of the year?
KM: My personal goal and the team’s goal this year is to win the Conference Championship and make it to NCAAs. Our team has so much potential, and if we keep our focus and drive we will be able to achieve these goals and more. I want to continue to work on our discipline and consistency and grow into the top caliber team that I know we are capable of becoming.
McErlean and the Blue Jays will look to defend their home turf next Saturday, Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. as they seek to remain undefeated in Conference play against Haverford College.