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After back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament, head coach Michele Madison and her staff return for their third season at the helm of the Virginia field hockey program in 2008. After two seasons under Madison, the Cavaliers have learned the system and the expectations have been set for another successful year in Charlottesville.

Madison returns associate head coach Chris Spice, assistant Alexandra Kyser and volunteer assistant Christina Kirkaldy for a third consecutive season. Having her staff intact, Madison notes, is a huge strength to her program.

“We know the process now; we know what we are looking for,” Madison said. “The standards have been set. We work so well together so I couldn’t be happier as a head coach to have Chris, Alex and Christina back.”

Along with the coaching staff, Virginia returns a core group of veteran players who are indeed familiar with the system Madison has put in place. All-American Inge Kaars Sijpesteijn and Lucy Myers, now in their fourth years, are expected to help lead the young Cavalier program, in addition to third-years Tracy Ragukas and Lauren Elstein.

“This year will be their third running the system, and we will really look to them to guide the group,” Madison continued. “They are our coaches on the field and really help us instruct and control play. It’s a very young team but I think that is going to play to be a strength for us. Our first-years have a lot of international experience. It’s a fairly large group and with youth, you always have enthusiasm, so it will be a second straight year of a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of laughing.”

Virginia again has one of the toughest schedules in the nation, with 10 of its opponents having played in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. The Cavaliers will play 19 regular season games, including 12 at home, before competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament Nov. 6-9. Those opponents that participated in the 2007 NCAA Tournament include defending national champion North Carolina, Old Dominion, James Madison, Ohio, Boston University, Maryland, Iowa, Penn State, Wake Forest and Duke.

“If you want to be the best, you have to play the best,” Madison said. “We are trying to get there, and that’s how you do it, by playing the best. We will take our lumps, no doubt. But we will only get there, lumps and all, if we play the best.”


Third-year Lauren Elstein and second-year Kaitlyn Hiltz will guide the group of forwards. Madison returns some firepower in Elstein and Hiltz, who combined to score seven goals a season ago. Traci Ragukas, another third-year, also returns at forward after leading Virginia with a team-best 13 goals in 2007. Ragukas, a second-team All-Region selection, will also be joined by second-year Pein Hulsebosch, who returns from a redshirt year after rehabbing an injury. First-year Paige Selenksi, who has five years of national and international experience, and Jamie Mulhare, will also figure into the mix.

“The forward line has a good ability to finish and they all have different scoring styles,” Madison said. “They can compliment each other well.”

First-year Katie Knapp also was expected to see action at forward but unfortunately suffered an ACL injury that will keep her sidelined for most of the season.

“We hope we have added some speed with the incoming class, so hopefully that will be one of our strengths,” Madison continued. “We will be a little faster in the off-ball runs and to get into position and on the counter-attack.”

After playing in the backfield the past two years, two-time All-American Inge Kaars Sijpesteijn will move up to play in the midfield this season for the Cavaliers. Kaars Sijpesteijn led UVa with 65 shots last year and tallied nine goals and five assists for 23 points. Moving Kaars Sijpesteijn to the middle will contribute to the offensive threat this season.

Joining Kaars Sijpesteijn in the midfield will be second-years Haley Carpenter and Taylor Swezey, who each tallied two goals during their rookie campaigns. Ragukas and Selenski will also likely see some time in the middle, in addition to first-years Michelle Vittese, Rachel Jennings and Alex Jahnle.

Vittese, a New Jersey native, also has some solid international experience, and was a member of the 2007 United States Under-21 team. In addition, Jennings and Jahnle have each spent time training with the National Futures program.

“We have a nice balance of youngsters and veterans in the middle,” Madison said. “The new kids will have a chance to learn our style of play from the upperclassmen. We are counting on the first-years to add more speed to the midfield.”

Returnees Shelly Edmonds, Lucy Meyers, and Boyd Vicars will head the Virginia backfield in 2008. Meyers, a fourth-year, recorded three goals on just five shots last season. Vicars and Edmonds, both second-years, gained valuable experience during their rookie campaigns and will be key contributors to the Cavalier defense this season.

In addition to the returning players to the backfield, newcomers Jennings and Floor Vogels are also expected to see time.

“Most of the backfield players have one or two solid years behind them,” Madison said. “And we are hoping our first-years can help us right away as well.”

Both goalkeepers from 2007 return in fifth-year Amy Desjadon and second-year Devon Burnley. Desjadon and Burnley split time in the net last season, with Burnley recording 56 saves and Desjadon stopping 52.

“Desj and Devon played together last year and really stepped it up in the middle of the season,” Madison said. “They came together to make a great team, and together they will mentor Adrienne.”

First-year Adrienne Ostroff joins the goalie corps in 2008. Ostroff, a Philadelphia native, was a member of the 2007 National Futures team and has several years of experience at the national level.

Noting the UVa Schedule
Virginia’s strong non-conference schedule will prepare the Cavaliers well for another challenging year in the ACC. UVa is set to play Big Ten opponents Penn State and Iowa, Big East Tournament semifinalist Providence, NCAA Tournament participants Boston University and Ohio, as well as Kent State and Vermont.

“Penn State is going to be strong and will again challenge for the national championship,” Madison said. “Iowa is very strong also, as they won the Big Ten Tournament last year. That is going to be a really tell-tale weekend in terms of where we stand in the middle of October.”

In-state teams William & Mary, Old Dominion, James Madison, Virginia Commonwealth and Longwood are also on the slate for 2008.

“We play William & Mary, ODU and James Madison within first two weeks of the season,” Madison said. “Those games are never easy because everyone fights for in-state bragging rights. All those games will be a battle because of that.”

A Look at the ACC
Defending national champion North Carolina is among the challenging foes that await Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Arguably the strongest league in the nation, five of the conference’s six teams participated in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

“Carolina will be strong, returning a significant amount of players coming off an undefeated season,” Madison said. “I would imagine they will have a lot of confidence going in to start the year.

“Duke had a strong recruiting class and with Maryland and Boston College, everyone is right there,” Madison continued. “Wake Forest is always strong, they played in the semifinals, so you have two teams returning that were in the semis. It is going to be tight. Any team is capable of challenging for the ACC Championship. Some of them have a little more experience that others. Duke and UVa are probably the two youngest and we are in position to keep the rest on their toes, that’s for sure.”

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