DURHAM, N.C. – Members of the Duke field hockey program reported to campus this week and immediately got to work at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. As head coach Pam Bustin and the Blue Devils begin a busy two weeks of preseason training, take a look at five storylines to follow heading into the 2017 campaign.
Challenging Schedule on Tap
The Blue Devils’ 2017 slate features seven contests against teams selected to the 2016 NCAA Tournament field, including two of last year’s semifinalists in North Carolina and Princeton. Duke will host three regular season ACC matchups at home at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium this fall, beginning with the home opener against Louisville Friday, Sept. 15. Syracuse visits Durham Saturday, Oct. 7, followed by Wake Forest Friday, Oct. 13.
Bustin’s squad kicks off the 2017 campaign on the road, traveling to William & Mary Friday, Aug. 25 before returning to the home of USA Field Hockey at Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster, Pa., for the BIG/ACC Cup. Blue Devil fans will have two chances to catch the team in Durham prior to the start of the season, as Duke scrimmages Davidson Saturday, Aug. 12 and North Carolina Saturday, Aug. 19. Both exhibition matches at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium are free to the public and are scheduled for 11 a.m.
New Faces on Coaching Staff
Bustin brought Ralph Boersma on board the Duke coaching staff in March to join Assistant Coach Wesley Drew. A native of The Netherlands, Boersma boasts a wealth of prior coaching experience, having spent a number of years overseeing teams for the HV Victoria hockey club and the HC Hoeksche Waard club program in The Netherlands. Before joining the coaching ranks, Boersma enjoyed a successful playing career with HC Hoeksche Waard and HV Victoria, competing in several regional divisions with the two programs.
More recently, Bustin rounded out the coaching staff with the addition of Tracey Griesbaum as a volunteer assistant coach. A veteran of the collegiate coaching ranks, Griesbaum spent 14 seasons as the head coach at the University of Iowa (2000-13). During that time, she led the Hawkeyes to an overall record of 165-107 (.606) and six NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the national semifinals in 2008. A teammate of Bustin’s during their days with the U.S. senior national team, Griesbaum comes to Durham with experience coaching within the USA Field Hockey organization as well.
Blue Devils Look to Build on 2016 Success
Duke rounded out a historic 2016 campaign at No. 1 in the final Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll after climbing to the top spot in the national rankings for the first time in program history. The Blue Devils also earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time and made the program’s fifth consecutive appearance in the quarterfinal round.
In another historic first for the program, the squad captured the ACC regular season title after compiling a 5-1 ledger against conference opponents. Under the direction of the 2016 NFHCA South Region Coach of the Year and ACC Coach of the Year in Bustin, Duke finished with an overall record of 16-4, with 12 of the 16 wins coming against ranked opponents.
The Blue Devils return 16 letterwinners and seven starters from last year’s team.
Strong Senior Class
Duke enters the 2017 campaign with a six-member senior class leading the way. Returning starting center back Alyssa Chillano earned first team All-America, All-South Region and All-ACC accolades last year, and will be joined on the back line by Stephanie Pezzuti and three-year starter Sarah Furey. Another three-year starter, Alexa Mackintire, returns to bolster the midfield while Ainsley Gill and Ashley Kristen will look to set the tone for the Blue Devils up top. A starting forward for the past three seasons, Kristen was a second team All-South Region pick a year ago.
In addition to welcoming two new coaches and five freshmen to the program during the offseason, Bustin’s squad saw student-athletes fan out across the world in summer competition. Nine Blue Devils were invited to USA Field Hockey’s Young Women’s National Championship in June, marking the most selections of any collegiate institution. Juniors Morgan Bitting, Christy Palazzese and Erin Scherrer, redshirt sophomore Sammi Steele, sophomores Kirby Comizio, Haley Schleicher and Jillian Wolgemuth and freshmen Lexi Davidson and Lily Posternak were all selected to take part in the event at Spooky Nook Sports, the home of USA Field Hockey.
From there, Davidson, Paolino, Schleicher and Wolgemuth were tabbed to the U21 Junior National Camp and Bitting received an invitation to the Development Squad National Camp. At the conclusion of the camps in late June, Paolino and Wolgemuth earned spots on the 2017 U.S. U21 women’s national team roster while Schleicher was one of five athletes who will be offered a trial spot on the U21 team.
Junior forward Rose Tynan returned home to New Zealand over the summer, where she tallied five goals at the New Zealand U21 nationals in May while playing with Auckland Hockey.