Field Hockey Prepared to Defend NJAC Title
EWING, N.J. – Lofty expectations are nothing new for the TCNJ field hockey team, and entering the 2018 season, the Lions return eight of 11 starters from a team that reached the final four a season ago. The Lions will enter the year one of the favorites to travel to Manheim and compete for the program's 12th national title. "We are very excited about our returning players this season," said head coach Sharon Pfluger. "They gained a tremendous amount of experience and confidence during the 2017 season. All of them played a huge role in our team advancing to the 2017 NCAA Final Four." As four-time defending conference champions, TCNJ enters the year as the NJAC favorites in the coaches poll garnering five of seven first place votes. Rowan, who earned a single first place vote, ranks second. Montclair State, the team receiving the final first place vote, ranks third. Defending regular season champion Kean was selected fourth. Stockton, dark-horse selection Ramapo, and William Paterson round out the poll. The Lions will be led on defense by retuning First-Team NFHCA All-American Sidney Padilla. Padilla was second in the NJAC a season ago with seven defensive saves. Returning starters Jackie Schwartz, Caroline Quinn, and Jillian Farley join Padilla on the back line. "Sidney is a phenomenal athlete who has led her team in many ways as an underclassman and now has the opportunity to play an even greater role as a senior leader," said Pfluger. "She is incredibly strong and agile and possesses the skill and game sense to make incredible impacts on both sides of the field. Our coaching staff is very excited to coach Sidney again." Offensively, the Lions return leading goal-scorer Tori Tiefenthaler. Tiefenthaler was third in the NJAC with 18 goals a season ago on her way to earning NJAC Rookie of the Year honors. Also returning is 13-goal scorer and All-NJAC Honorable Mention Cayla Andrews. Andrews had no issues adjusting to the pressure of the NCAA Tournament, netting the game-winning goal in each of TCNJ's victories. "Our attack will be led by multiple threats from both returners and newcomers," Pfluger said. "We have an excellent support system among every one of our players. They push and challenge each other, yet they are also so supportive of one another." First-Team All-NJAC performer Kayla Peterson and Taylor Barrett each finished 2018 with double digit points from the midfield. "Our entire team is one big family that works diligently to help everyone be successful," said Pfluger. "We all feel extremely enthusiastic for the upcoming season and will take one day at a time to attain our individual and team goals." TCNJ opens the season with a trio of home games beginning Sept. 1 when it hosts Catholic University. The Lions will look for revenge against the team that defeated them in the NCAA Tournament when they travel to Messiah College on Sept. 15. Conference play begins Sept. 29 with a road game at Ramapo College. On Oct. 27, the Lions will have double duty when they host Stockton University for homecoming and senior night to end the regular season.