Lamport tourney preps Gael fielders

After a mediocre weekend, going 1-2-1 in the University of Toronto Invitational at Lamport stadium, the Gaels field hockey team is refined and ready for the regular season.

Friday’s turf wars produced two narrow losses, as the Gaels dropped both games by 1-0 scores to the Guelph Gryphons and the Marauders from McMaster. While McMaster’s defeat of the Gaels was a less than desirable effort by the squad, the Guelph fixture was an encouraging performance against a tough team. The lone Gryphon goal was the result of a freak breakaway, the only hole in a Gael defence that refused to lapse.

FIELD HOCKEY

On Saturday the Gaels’ young blood showed Trent that they weren’t about to bullied on the OUA stage, pounding the Excalibur 3-0. Rookie forward Melanie Vipon notched two goals and first year midfield Jenn Ogrodnick netted one of her own in the team’s first win of the year. The final day of the weekend tourney saw the Gaels engaged in a defensive stalemate with St. Mary’s of Halifax that ended in a 0-0 tie.

The competition served as the final piece in head coach Richard Bennett’s selection puzzle before the Gaels enter the OUA season this weekend. The actual outcome of the tournament, according to Bennett, was far less important than the preparation the Gaels undertook.

“We took a couple extra people to watch at Lamport,” said Bennett, “in terms of results I’m not overly concerned because it was still a trial weekend.”

Bennett’s final group of charges has been decided upon, a group that should be able to surge past their sixth place finish in the OUA last year.

“We’ve streamlined the program in terms of fitness. The team’s been bolstered in order to add more depth,” he added.

In combination with the team’s hot handed rookies, the Gaels have a solid veteran foundation to guide them. Back are right defender Jackie Cockburn, midfielder Amber Palmer, and sweepers Shannon Cullum and Laura Conquergood; all of which are seeking to avenge last season’s playoff loss to Western on penalty strokes.

Starting the season will be anything but an easy route to improving on the previous season’s finish though. The Gaels head back to Lamport next weekend to encounter the defending OUA champions, the U of T Varsity Blues, as well as the McGill Martlets. Always an optimist, Bennett is confident the Gaels, especially the new recruits, won’t back down.

“The great thing about rookies is that they don’t have preconceptions about who they play. The team is less intimidated than they used to be,” said Bennett.

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