VIRGINIA BEACH -- When Virginia Wesleyan College begins its 23rd season of intercollegiate field hockey on Saturday, Aug. 31, the Marlins will experience two major changes.
No.1, there will be new leadership as Christina Restivo begins her first season as the Marlins' head coach. The team will also have two new assistant coaches in Kellie Finn and Nicole Morgan.
No. 2, the Marlins return to campus. After several seasons of playing the majority of home games on turf at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex National Training Center, the Marlins will now host home games on Marlins Field adjacent to the Trinder Center on campus.
Home games will be at a premium however, as the Marlins will play only six times on the home grass. Four of those six dates will feature Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) foes and the other two will bring in a pair of Division II teams from South Carolina, Limestone College and Newberry College.
While Limestone has been competing in field hockey since 2009, the 2013 season will be the first for Newberry. Both teams are members of the Independent Schools Alliance which includes members in Kentucky, Missouri, New York and South Carolina. The Marlins will take on Newberry on Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. and face Limestone on Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.
Before all that however, the Marlins face a challenging start to the season, playing four consecutive games away from Virginia Beach. VWC will open 2013 on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 2 p.m. in Aston, Pa. on the campus of Neumann University. The Marlins will tangle with Maryland's Stevenson University in a neutral field game, facing a Mustangs team that will be trying to build on eight victories recorded in 2012, the third highest total in program history.
Six of the top seven scorers from last year to return to help put that in motion, led by second team All-Commonwealth Conference honoree Caitlin Dempsey (Fallston, Md./Fallston), who scored eight goals and two assists. SU also brings back two key defensive players in Ariella Hopp (Jarrettsville, Md./Institute of Notre Dame), another second team all-conference honoree, and goalie Katie Cavanaugh (Park View, Md./Perry Hall), who recorded 123 saves.
About 24 hours later, on Sunday, Sept. 1, Virginia Wesleyan will play again, taking on the host Knights of Newmann. The Knights finished 3-14 last year, with one of the losses a 1-0 setback to VWC. This season Neumann returns its top two scorers in Lindsey Spatola (Patchogue, N.Y./National Sports Academy), who scored seven goals and two assists, and Kenya Woods (Salem, N.J./Salem), who added five goals and an assist. Lindsey Kasecamp (Bel Air, Md./Patterson Mill) will lead the defense as the returning goalkeeper. She recorded 148 saves in 2012.
The Marlins continue their non-conference slate on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 1 p.m. in Frostburg, Maryland against the host Bobcats of Frostburg State University, which competes in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC). The 'Cats return three of the top five scorers from 2012, led by Becky Randel (Columbia, Md./Long Reach) and Ashley Johnson (Poway, Calif./Poway). Randel scored six goals and six assists and Johnson tallied five goals and two assists. There will be a new face in front of the cage however, as Maggie Edwards, who recorded 214 saves last season, has graduated. FSU finished 7-14 last year, with one of the losses a 2-1 decision to VWC.
VWC will face one of its biggest challenges of the season on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Newport News against Christopher Newport University, which finished 2012 with a 17-2 record ranked No. 7 nationally. Belle Tunstall (Vienna/James Madison), who scored 12 goals and 11 assists, will lead a strong line-up that includes five of the top seven scorers from last season. CNU outgoaled opponents 64-25 in 2012.
After that the Marlins begin five straight weekends with Saturday and Sunday contests. On Saturday, Sept. 21, VWC's beings Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) play hosting Washington and Lee University at 11:30 a.m. On Sunday, Sept. 22, Newberry's Wolves will take on VWC on Marlins field at 1 p.m.
An ODAC weekend on the road is next, with VWC playing at Roanoke College in Salem at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, and competing at Sweet Briar College on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 2:30 p.m. That will be followed by a conference weekend on Marlins Field as VWC hosts Bridgewater College at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, and Randolph-Macon College at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6.
The following weekend is a "split," with an ODAC game on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Shenandoah University at 4 p.m., and a non-conference date at Delaware's Wesley College on Sunday, Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. Wesley advanced to the championship game of the CAC last year after stunning No. 2 ranked Salisbury University in the semifinals, winning 4-3. The Wolverines will be led this year by All-American and CAC Co-Player of the Year Madison Leone (Dover, Del./Caesar Rodney). She scored 20 goals and seven assists and is part of a potent offense that includes four of last year's top six scorers
VWC will play its final ODAC road game at powerhouse Lynchburg College, which finished 2012 ranked No. 11, before closing its regular season with two home dates, Sunday, Oct. 20 against Limestone and Saturday, Oct. 26, against ODAC foe Eastern Mennonite University. Limestone finished with a 13-5 record in 2012 and outgoaled opponents 42-19. The Saints return four of their top five scorers, led by ISA Player of the Year and All-American Rachel Goromonzi (Harare, Zimbabwe/Watershed College) who scored 14 goals last year. Limestone also returns goalie Lindsey Horton (Aurora, Colo./Overland) who recorded an 81.0% saves percentage.