University of Maine field hockey goalie Cindy Botett is coming into her senior season in better shape than ever. The Bears’ 17-5 finish last year was incentive. The talented core returning was also motivating.
But the guilt factor was the main reason Botett worked out more.
“Coach and the staff had us sign a contract promising that no matter what we would do the [summer conditioning] program,” said the Bears capta said something like, `I, Cindy Botett, promise to work out every day.’ Just seeing that was enough to get me do the work.”
Botett, a second-team Northeast Regional All-American, and her teammates did more agility work and running this summer. The goal was to improve the team’s speed and endurance to make it an America East title contendor.
Head coach Terry Kix said the Bears hope to win the America East tournament and earn their first automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, just making the four-team conference championship will be a challenge what with competition from Boston University, which finished seventh in the nation last year; Final Four team Northeastern, which finished eighth; and Top 20 teams Delaware and New Hampshire.
Kix said the strategy is not so much to be faster or sharper than Northeastern and BU, but to wear down the two rival teams.
“We have to play up-tempo to compete with Northeastern. They play on turf all the time,” Kix said. “We’re at a disadvantage on grass. We’re trying to overcome the adversity. Last year, we had two subs a game. This year we’ll have four-to-five a game.”
The Bears will use a balanced attack, utilizing two lines of three forwards who, Kix said, are all capable of scoring. The offensive punch will come from returning forwards Dede DeLilli, Karen Hebert, Briana Banks and Deb Akerley as well as freshmen Kristi Knights of South Portland and Noriko Kariya of North Vancouver, sister of Anaheim Duck Paul Kariya and UMaine hockey star Steve Kariya.
Kix expects freshmen Steph Chakmakian, Knights and Kariya will make an impact right away.
To fill in gaps left by Northeast Regional All-American forward Annie Elkanich and America East All-Tournament back Dawn Porter will be a challenge. However, senior captain Jeni Turner of Skowhegan, a Northeast Regional All-American, and DeLilli combined for 36 percent of the Bears scoring last year.
And Botett, who led the conference with an 1.12 goals-against average and an 84 percent save percentage, plans to be more of a presence and to provide a spark.
“I want to take more control, to be more in charge of my circle,” Botett said. “I don’t want to give a chance for second shots. And I want to start the attack. Coach keeps stressing for me to kick the ball out to other players.”
The veteran players clearly view the program, that finished third in America East and 18th in the nation last year, as one on the rise.
Hebert said the team is ahead of schedule on the preseason tests. Turner is excited the team’s times on the track are faster.
“We’ll create a lot of offense, especially on grass. We’re releasing quicker,” Turner said. “I think we have a good chance [to win the America East Championship]. Last year, we made it and were third. It wasn’t working. This year I think it will.”
Botett said the coaches motivating guilt benefited in two ways: the players worked to live up to Kix’ expectations for themselves – and for the coaches.
“The coaching staff is more relaxed. They’re not getting frustrated with us. I think [Kix] feels confident in us,” Botett said. “It starts from the top. When we see [Kix] strong, we’re positive. We know there is a lot of pressure on her for us to perform.”
Maine opens at Providence College on Sept. 3. The Bears open at home against Colgate on Sept. 6.
UMaine field hockey schedule
SEPTEMBER 3 at Providence, 3:30 p.m. 6 Colgate, 1 p.m. 7 at Davis & Elkins College, noon 13 at Yale, 1 p.m. 19 Towson State, 3:30 p.m. 21 Delaware, 1 p.m. 24 Boston University, 3:30 p.m. 27 American, 11 a.m. 28 vs. Dartmouth, 1 p.m. *
OCTOBER 4 Vermont, 1 p.m. 11 at New Hampshire, 11 a.m. 13 Bucknell, 12 p.m. 15 at Rhode Island, 2:30 p.m. 17 at Hofstra, 7 p.m. 19 at Drexel, 1 p.m. 24 at Virginia Commonwealth, 4 p.m. 26 at Duke, 12 p.m.
NOVEMBER 1 at Northeastern, 1 p.m. 2 at Holy Cross, 1 p.m. 7 at America East semi-finals, TBA 9 at America East Championships, TBA
*at Cape Elizabeth High School